“Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness and hold such men in esteem.”
Because of the litany of scandal among Christian leaders in recent years, respect for the offices of ministry has plummeted. This nosedive has hurt the cause of Christ. How can we restore trust again? How are we to think about this tension between belief in leadership and the possibility of being also burned?
“Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness”
Paul sent Epaphroditus back to Philippi with the epistle to the Philippians. Upon his arrival, Paul challenged the Philippians to hold this man in deference.
The word “receive” means to receive kindly, to admit as a host. “When Epaphroditus comes back—host him.” This word means to welcome with open arms: “Treat him as a guest. Treat him with respect.”
They were to receive him “in the Lord.” This man represented the Lord Jesus Christ. He was part of the body of Christ.
“With all gladness” is a phrase of joy. Paul identified the attitude the church should have toward him when he returned. The word “gladness” is literally the word “joy.”
“and hold such men in esteem”
The word “hold” means to have and hold, implying continued holding and lasting possession: “Do not let your esteem falter. Keep as a lasting possession your honor of this man. Preserve your respect and esteem for him.”
“Esteem” is an honor, value. This man was to be valued and cherished. The next verse tells us why we should hold such a man in high regard. He was to receive esteem because of what he did, not for who he was.
How are Christians to think about leadership in an age of scandal? There is a tendency to throw a blanket of suspicion over all leaders when a leader falls. This is obviously a distortion and unfair to faithful leaders. It is our insecurity that drives this warp of what should be right thinking.
However, on the other hand, Christian naivety of leadership is no Christian value either. Any leader can fall given the right circumstances and timing in his life. That is reality. To put leadership on a pedestal is not realistic.
Some leaders are faithful. They have earned respect, and we should honor them for it:
“And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their works sake” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).
No leader can lead without respect and honor. That honor is not for his sake but for the ministry’s sake.
The work of Jesus Christ cannot advance without respect for the office a leader holds.
Are you in the process of undermining a Christian leader? If you are, you are attacking the work of Christ. If a leader is not credible, we should be careful not to undermine the ministry while addressing the person. Positively, we should hold our leaders in deference, respect, and honor. Without that, they cannot lead the cause of Christ vigorously.