As we continue down the list of requirements for elders specifically, and standards for godly people generally, Titus is told,
Titus 1:7d For the overseer must be ... not pugnacious...
"Pugnacious" is a word that I can honestly say I'd never used before reading the Bible. Frankly, if I wasn't a Bible teacher, I'd have never used it afterwards, either! For the 95% of people who have no idea what the word even means, its English definition is, "having a quarrelsome or combative nature."
Someone who is constantly quarreling and always in conflict is always in sin. James said,
James 4:1-2 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel...
Argumentative people are showing that they always put their own wants, lusts, and desires above others.
Think about the last argument you had with someone. Was it their fault or yours? Certainly, it's always the other person's fault! But why did the strife escalate? Because just like they wanted to assert their own idea, and have things their own way, so did you. The proverb says,
Prov. 17:14 The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out.
"It takes two to tango," as the old saying goes.
But more specifically, the Greek word Paul uses here is "PLAKE-tace." It means, "someone who strikes, hits, or gets into brawls."
Paul is saying that the man appointed as an elder should not be one who gets in fistfights. We of course hope that this would be true of anyone in the church.
It just seems almost like common sense, doesn't it? And yet, hitting is so much a part of our sinful human nature. From the time we learn to use our hands and arms, we strike out and hit. Thus, it is something which we need to be periodically reminded of.
Hitting has almost always been in mankind. From the second generation, striking others has been second nature. Remember in Genesis...
Gen. 4:3-8 So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it." Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.
Adam and Eve's son Abel was the victim of his brother Cain's violence. Cain was angry and struck him dead. This was a man to whom the Lord spoke personally. This was a guy who was a believer. And yet, he did not master sin, and the result was murder.
Hitting is possible for any of us. It is such a possibility for anyone that God dedicated much of Exodus 21 to outlining penalties for those who hit.
That chapter includes the commandment,
Ex. 21:12 He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.
There are terrible consequences for hitting. When anger rears up, we never think in advance of the child's broken arm, or the man lying dead in the parking lot. But God has warned us that He has thought of the punishment in advance.
That chapter also says,
Ex. 21:15 He who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.
God clearly has no tolerance for a teen who lashes out physically at his parents.
Of course as Christians, we should never find ourselves in a place where we're hitting someone, although the Bible acknowledges the temptation:
Prov. 18:6 A fool's lips bring strife, and his mouth calls for blows.
Sometimes it seems like people are just asking for it, doesn't it? When they tailgate us, are obnoxious in their behavior, or belligerent in their demeanor, it is as if their mouths are begging to be punched.
But wisdom dictates that we refrain from getting into it with the fool.
Prov. 20:3 Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, but any fool will quarrel.
Jesus also taught us,
Matt. 5:5 "Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth."
Now I was raised never to throw the first punch. I was taught that I'd be in trouble for throwing the first punch, but would be congratulated for throwing the second and last punches. Yet again, Jesus teaches us differently:
Luke 6:27-29 "But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either."
That is so against the world's ways, yet we are not to be of the world. We are to be like Jesus Christ.