Last post we noticed that Paul tells Timothy to avoid people who are lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant and the list goes on. (See 2 Timothy 3:1-5) After reading my last post a friend phoned me to ask, “how does a person avoid someone who manifests one or more of these characteristics?” That’s a good question and a lot more difficult than it seems at first reading.
Say I know someone who is proud and arrogant for instance. Is Paul saying I should never have anything to do with that person again? Or what if I attend a church that is nominal in its allegiance to Jesus? Should I leave and avoid contact with those people from now on?
It’s important for us to remember that Paul is talking about the Christian community in verses 1-5 and not about our outreach to a lost world. Paul, I believe, is simply telling Timothy that if he ends up conformed to the same value system as many other Christians, then he really has no alternative to present to the lost.
The great motivational factor of Christianity is love. It begins with God’s love for us that poured itself out at Calvary that you and I, as lost sinners separated from God, could be reconciled to the God of the Universe. What amazing love! Nothing I would ever do could earn that love and nothing that I could sacrifice could ever add one iota to Jesus’ unfathomable love and mercy provided to me.
It is the love of Jesus that needs to flow through our veins and pour out in compassion and care for the lost. But if I am sitting around my house thinking about my own successes, desires, wants and dreams where everything revolves around me and my wants, then how am I really different from the lost and what have I to offer?
Paul may well be telling Timothy to avoid people who do not have the passion for true discipleship. But wrapped up in the admonition not to associate with such people is the knowledge that to live in close harmony with such people is to take on their characteristics and slowly develop their attitudes towards wealth and service.
It is a whole different story with non-Christians. We are not to avoid these people who Paul talks about in verses 1-5 because they need the gospel.
Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, a free on line commentary has some interesting thoughts on the verses we have been discussing. He writes, “These people daring to assume the sacred name, no doubt with the thought of claiming its glorious promises, without one effort to please the Master or to do honor to His name were to be openly shunned by such as Timothy. No half measures were to be adopted towards these, who tried to deceive their neighbors and possibly deceived themselves.
The Pagan was to be courteously entreated, for in God’s good time the glory of the Lord might shine, too, on those now sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death. The heretic, seduced by false men from the school of the Apostles, where the life as well as the doctrine of Jesus was taught, was to be gently instructed. Perhaps God would lead him once more home. But these who, while pretending to belong to Jesus, lived the degraded life of the heathen, were to be shunned.”
I think what is being said in the above quote from Ellicott is that just because people are nominal or indifferent in the church doesn’t mean that we are to separate ourselves from them. It is from the people who are truly hypocritical in their faith and who practice and follow the characteristics and values (v. 1-5) of the non-believers that we are to avoid.
If verses 1-5 uncover the sinister side of the infection of our cultures values into the church, then Paul gives an antidote in verses 10-12. “Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, my sufferings, what befell me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra, what persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
Paul tells Timothy to compare what you know about me and my sufferings with the self-centeredness, egotism, pride, love of pleasure and money of the so called Christians and ask yourself who best reflects God’s love?
What matter does it really make what we go through on this earth if we are honestly committed to knowing Jesus and following Him? Why do we become so worked up over material things when the spiritual is what is really important?
Can we really rest well at night knowing family members, loved ones, neighbors and co-workers are lost? If a son or daughter is lost do we really want to stand before God and say, “I didn’t have enough time to pray for them, or visit with them, because work was so busy or it was the Stanley Cup playoffs?”
I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty, I’m just trying to figure out Paul’s message to Timothy and be open to his teaching. If you are anything like me, Paul’s teaching here in chapter three is a bit uncomfortable because it stretches me out of my comfort zone. If I look into the mirror of my soul am I more like the people described in verses 1-5 or am I more like verses 10-12?
Maybe even a more pertinent question is “do I even want to be the person Paul describes in verses 10-12?” Or am I content to make excuses for my sins and self-centeredness while promising God that when I know for sure that the end is coming I’ll pick up my game?
I believe the vast majority of us reading this blog want our lives to matter and we long to be totally surrendered to God, but like my friend stated, “how do we make this happen?” And maybe the answer is that we don’t make it happen but rather we allow it to happen by being open and receptive to the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We come to the foot of the cross without an agenda, just waiting on God to lead and direct. And when He does speak to us, then we go.
Some Christians are content to be spectators to their faith, but others want that love, conduct, aim in life, patience and steadfastness that Paul speaks of in his own life. Yet, for that relationship with God Paul suffered and faced persecution.
So that leaves us with one question, “How important is Jesus in our life?” To pick up the cross and carry it takes courage but the alternative is to lose out on the greatest adventure we could ever dream of – to walk with Jesus.
* For those of you who live in the St. Andrews area I would like to invite you to join Bob Cheatley (speaker – President of St. Stephen’s University) and Ruth Dunfield (music) for A Day of Prayer and Refelection: at the Anglican Chruch Hall, 75 King St., St. Andrews., Saturday, March 21, 9:00am – 3:00pm. Lunch provided: for details and to preregister, call 529-3843 or visit www.anglicanparishstandrewsnb.ca
** Please remember to pray for the Christians who are suffering persecution for their faith in many countries around the world. There is a great evil settling on this earth and we must be vigilant in our prayers and stay close to Christ. Our hope is in Christ and he is faithful to his people. Please take the time to read about what is taking place in the world around us at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet…