Living Above Reproach

chains2_soft_edge The concept of one living in such a way as to be “above reproach” is mentioned several times within scripture. Most references are in regard to Church Deacons, Overseers, and Elders. However, two passages in particular read like the Army Values and remind us of why and how important it is to be an effective leader.

It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. – 1 Timothy 3:1-7

For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. – Titus 1:5-9

Years ago, I was asked to speak to a high school football team in a motivational sense because their record was 6-6 and the game they were about to play would determine if they made it into the playoffs or not. At the time, I was the 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment Chaplain stationed at Fort Stewart Georgia. The high school is located just outside the main gate in Hinesville, GA.

I knew and had been told that many of the young men were from broken homes, almost all had discipline issues and the current team was dubbed the “Bad News Bears” of football in their conference. The coach I spoke with also told me that they were mainly interested in money, sports and wasting time on video games.

iuy7_XL Armed with this limited info on who my audience was, I headed off to the football field to stand in front of these young men as a representation of everything they did not have. I stood before them as a faithful father who had four kids and all of my kids knew me. I stood before them as a faithful man of God, sporting my uniform since I just left work and exited out the front gate. I knew a little about them and they knew even less about me until I showed up.

After introducing myself and thanking them for letting me speak with them before the big game, I asked them a financial question that always gets people’s attention regardless of age. “If I gave you $1,440.00 right now at 1800 hrs and the only rule for receiving another $1,440.00 tomorrow at the same time was you had to spend all the money, how many of you think you could spend the money?” The only hand that did not go up was the kid that thought I had nothing to offer him or so it seemed. Even the coaches were interested and raised their hands.

Next, I upped the ante. “Okay, same rules apply only now the amount has now gone up to $100,000.00. How many think they could spend $100,000.00 by this time tomorrow in order to receive another $100,000.00?” Only about 80% of the hands went up that time. So I asked, “What happened to all the hands?” Even some of the coaches lowered their hands the second time. One young man spoke up and said, with that kind of money you need a contract and it may take longer than a day. Wow! That is a really good point and he was absolutely correct. In order to continue day after day renewing upwards of $100,000.00 you eventually move into illegal purchase just to maintain the cash flow because you cannot sustain your efforts to zero out at the end of each day with that kind of money without it raising some serious suspicion. Another kid chimed in, “My dad would just stock up on beer!” I responded that even that would come with its own issues and would fail.

From there I told the team that once I was finished speaking I would tell them more about the money, because one kid wanted his money.

I transitioned quickly to making the speech spiritual by asking, “Knowing what you do about Jesus from wherever you learned about Jesus, did Jesus ever break the rules or do wrong?” Almost unanimously, all shook their heads NO. Except for the one kid that thought I had nothing for him. I went on to give a few examples of what I meant. Most of the team was very confident in their answers. Even one of the coaches answered in like manner.

Then I asked if any of them could imagine Jesus playing football and if they thought he would ever cheat, go out of bounds on purpose, draw a penalty, injure another player from the other team, curse at the opponents and so on. Most said they could imagine Jesus playing football and thought it would be really cool if he had. However, most agreed that he would never have done any of the things I mentioned.

Following that logic, I asked them if they could imagine themselves playing such a game. A game where they never cheated, purposely went out of bounds, drew a penalty, and injured another player, cursed at the opponent and so on? They all spoke up this time and said NO. Immediately I looked at the coach as if to say, “How about that?” The head coach could not figure out why I looked at him so intently and then it was like a lightning bolt struck him in the head. He knew exactly where I was going with the conversation. Quoting Matthew 5:48, I challenged the team to try in the upcoming game to be perfect as God in heaven is perfect and used the opportunity to explain to them that there is only one perfect but it doesn’t hurt to try to do what the verse says. I reiterated and emphasized my point that to win tonight, they needed to stay in bounds, not draw penalties, hold their tongue and redirect that energy toward tackling, be a good sportsman, and play the game to the best of their ability within the rules of the game.

Noticeably motivated the coach took over and echoed all I had said. As I went to walk away, the entire team was pretty fired up about the strategy and challenge. However, the one that had sat there the entire time as if not interested jumped up and yelled over the crowd, “What about my money?” Instantly, there was a hush as the kids eagerly awaited my response. “Why do you care? You have not been interested this entire time”, I said. He stopped moving toward me as if defeated and said, “My family and I could really use the money.” I felt bad as I walked back to the front where I had just rallied them for the game.

godlove “So you want to know about the money?” YES, they all responded sitting down quickly. I don’t want to disappoint you but you already have all the money I talked about earlier. You see, there are 1,440 minutes in a day and once a minute is gone, you never get it back and you never live the same one twice. Each of you sitting here have an average heart rate of 100,000 beats per day and once one heart beat is passed you never get it back and you never relive the same heartbeat. I not only encourage you to win this game tonight but I encourage you to do it in such a fashion that you maximize every minute, play with all your heart, and realize that Jesus is the only way to heaven. Can I pray for you all?” I have never seen a group of kids with eyes so big ready to do anything like that evening. The coach reached over, placed his hand on my shoulder and said, “That is the best speech I have ever heard, you are welcome to come pray for us any time.”

After praying for them, I went home to my kids and wife in order to be home in time for the young ones to go to bed. Once we finished dinner and the girls were asleep, I was almost afraid to turn on the TV to see the results of the game. Certainly by now the game was over. It took me a minute but I found the channel covering the game. They were still playing and the game was a nail biter. They used the strategy I proposed for the entire game on a team was that was ranked #1 in the conference and wound up winning minutes later 31-29.

Lest you think this post is all about my ability to motivate, realize I was pointing these kids to Jesus and demonstrating to them how they too could live their life and play their game as leaders on the field and off and do so above reproach. What I said was not about me at all but about them and their walk with God!

How about you? Have you ever tried to live or play above reproach and lead others?

Mijikai Mason
Disclaimer: The thoughts and views published on the Veterans to Christ blog are those of Mijikai Mason and in no way are meant to represent the United States Army or the Armed Forces.

Bio: Mijikai Mason is an Ordained Southern Baptist minister and Chaplain in the United States Army. He has been in the Army for 26 years both as an enlisted Soldier and now as an Officer. He has been stationed at various bases in the United States and in United States Army Garrison Schweinfurt, Germany. He holds an undergraduate degree in Religion from the University of Mobile, a Master of Divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in Theology and Evangelism and a Master of Arts degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Webster University. Chaplain (MAJ) Mijikai Mason was selected by the Army in 2013, to become a Family Life Chaplain and began his service in this field starting 15 May 2015. He is the Deputy ESC Chaplain and Family Life Chaplain for the 593 Expeditionary Support Command at Joint Base Lewis McCord. He has deployed four times: Desert Storm (1991), Iraq twice (2005-2006; 2007-2008), and Afghanistan (2012-2013). He has a total of 42 months deployed in combat and logistics operations. Mijikai and his wife, Ashley, have been married for 17 years this May and live near Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington with their four daughters.