When to Fight and When To Be Quiet
That's the Book: 1 Timothy
Ever seen sheep fight? Ever been to church? Sadly its sometimes the same thing.
1 Timothy is an important book. Its a personal message from the church leader Paul to his protégé Timothy. The book is written to encourage Timothy to not quit and stand firm on issues in a fractured and fighting local church in Ephesus. All kinds of crazy was being preached and the important message of Jesus was being compromised by the reputation of the fighting church. Sound familiar? I'd say 1 Timothy is an important book for believers today.
We too have a contentious discussion happening amongst people who claim Christ. Most clearly seen on social media and the sharpest blades come out on Twitter. Lots of people are advising the best approach is to flee and drop any portion of faith which offends. Some are picking up viral campaigns of anger. Some are valiantly standing up to abuse. Some are using bad doctrine as a fundraising mechanism. All very familiar themes found in 1st Timothy.
As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work - which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. I Timothy 1 4-5
Somethings are heresy and some are simply different interpretations - and the letter from Paul to Timothy contains advice on when to stand and fight and when to be silent. This book tells me there are s specific times when silence is the appropriate response. And clearly other times when kicking bad doctrine out the door should be our resounding corporate shout. The trick is to know which and when.
My best guess says when abuse is happening, when exclusion, when one sin is shamed and others tolerated or celebrated we better not shut up. I'm not impressed when grace is cheapened into license or when the law is elevated to a whipping stick. But on all the minors - for the love - can we tap down our disagreements and elevate the main thing?
When the grand story from Genesis to Revelation is what we teach.
We’re in a good place when the cross is the main message.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners- of whom I am the worst. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. 1 Timothy 2 : 2-6
1 Timothy has some of my least favorite verses in the Bible.
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 1 Timothy 2:11
When I run up against verses I don't understand or frankly don't like. I do my best not to just ignore them. Sometimes those hard verses have the best lessons. And clearly sometimes silence IS the right and often neglected approach. But these verses also seem to contradict Paul's great esteem mentioned in other books for women preachers and leaders. So off to study I go. I love Beth Moore's recent advice on Twitter.
"Do your homework. Study the Scriptures, Genesis to Revelation. Study them hard. Know the NT from end to end. Learn to distinguish between differing interpretations that are well within the bounds of orthodoxy & actual heresies. The ESV has 757,439 words in it. That’s alotta Bible."
Contest is everything. When the grand story from Genesis to Revelation is what we teach we don't get side tracked as easily by controversy.
1st Timothy also has some of my favorite affirming verses.
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12
Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. 1 Timothy 5:1-2
Seriously - our #metoo culture could be solved if people would treat each other as family - with absolute purity. Good advice.
Paul finished up the book with a clear fight against any sort of profiteering off faith and a final exhortation to Timothy not to quit.
These are the things you are to teach and insist on. If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. 1 Timothy 6: 2-5
For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. But you man of God flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the pretense of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6: 10-12
I'd say the same to you. Let's approach our faith with a clear heart with a goal of love, a commitment to the main message of Christ's redeeming sacrifice and the goodwill to one another to figure out what matters most. Baaaaaaa.
As always - the Bible Project is helpful. I especially like how the team allows for different interpretations of the text while pointing out the salient and clear issues. Love it.
Free Book - Perfection Collides with Free Will by Gary Williams
When I run up against verses I don't understand or don't like I try not to just ignore the content. I try to wrestle with the text until I understand or at least have a perspective to put the verses in context. Contest is everything. And sometimes I read what other people who have done the research think. Working through 1 Timothy I read and asked some knowledgable friends questions. This pass along came through those discussions. Gary Williams is finishing up his book Perfection Collides with Free Will. He'll be publishing soon but offered this FREE PDF DOWNLOAD for people interested in the nuances of relationships in ministry for men and women. Thoughtful.
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