I’ve been reading through 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus the past few days (aka the Pastoral Epistles), and found some similarities in Paul’s instructions to his up-and-coming church leaders:
- Bondservants should honor their masters (1 Tim. 6:1-2; Titus 2:9-10): My understanding in this instance is that “bondservant” could refer to a range of people, from true slaves to the equivalents of endentured servants. This strikes me as interesting because Paul, throughout the New Testament, doesn’t call believers found in these situations to revolt, demand justice, demand fair treatment or to quit their job. He advises these young pastors to teach their church how to remain faithful and thankful in any circumstance they’ve been given.
- Avoid silly arguments (Titus 3:9-11; 2 Timothy 2:23-26): Paul was pretty strong on staying away from the petty disputes that become so common in churches. Back then, I’m a lot of it had to do with discussions over following the traditional Jewish law. The intriguing part is that Paul doesn’t call Titus and Timothy to speak up so that their side of the argument can be heard – he calls them to avoid it. Don’t get mixed up in it. Cuz it never accomplishes much.
Obviously, American culture doesn’t have slaves and bondservants, but I think the principles still apply to us all as employees. And we might not struggle with incorporating Jewish traditions, but there are plenty of silly disputes going on in the modern church. Here are just a couple of examples that cross my mind that bring these passages to light:
- Apologetics in general: OK, don’t get me wrong here. I’m all for defending the faith, and having the intellectual ability to show its strength. But people don’t change their lives and become believers once they’ve received a logical explanation of everything that’s happened in the Bible. They become believers when God touches their heart. Some people seem to completely base their entire relationship with God in their ability to prove He’s right. Sometimes I wonder if God is just thinking, “Thanks for the support, but everyone’s gonna know I’m the real thing soon enough. In the meantime, let’s you and I spend a little more time together.”
- Dancing, Drinking and Singing: The modern church struggles with legalism just as much as the first century church dealt with Jewish customs. Should you drink, or not drink? What kind of music is worship, and what kind isn’t? Is the Living Translation of the Bible OK, or do I have to stick with the King James? The list is 1,000 miles long. When you stop and think about a lot of this stuff, it will make you laugh. And I’m sure it makes God sad. “I didn’t save you so you’d wonder whether it’s OK to have a glass of wine. I saved you so you can live an abundant life, and forget all this small stuff.”
- Deal with it. Speaking of the abundant life, Jesus’ promise to us to give us that should never be confused for an easy life. And while most of us automatically relate abundance to money and material gain, the most abundant thing we can have in our lives is more Jesus. And because realizing He is abundantly present is usually most obvious in the midst of less-than-perfect situations, we can’t expect to be plucked out of the harshness of this life. Just like Paul expected bondservants to honor their masters, so God expects us to be His shining light in the situation and circle of influence in which He has placed us.