Reading in 2 Timothy this morning and it may as well be subtitled “current events”. Paul’s life on earth is coming to and end and he knows it: he writes from a prison cell with the knowledge that he’s probably about to die for his faith. He therefore doesn’t mince his words, wasting no time reminding readers that there isn’t time to be ashamed or fearful of what may lie ahead.
Here’s the short list of some of the things that we are promised to come across:
For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (3:2-5)
Sound familiar at all? Have you looked at the news cycle today? Honestly, it’s beyond parody. As we slip further and further down the rabbit hole of truth being whatever we want it to be, lets take a look at some of Pauls’s advice:
He tells us to “hold fast the pattern of sound words” (1:13). In this culture of keyboard warriors, arguing over words could be an olympic sport. Unsound words bombard us all more than we even realize. Once someone loud enough decides something is true, it just becomes true. Todays example: employees over at Google have come to the conclusion that the word “family” is “offensive, inappropriate, homophobic and wrong”. Family. As in… a unit of people living together or related to one another. We all know it’s the tip of an otherwise very large iceberg… but words are worth fighting for because truth is worth fighting for.
Interestingly enough, Paul also makes a point to warn us about getting involved in too much nonsense. I absolutely love and cling to these verses:
- “But shun profane and idle babbling, for they will increase to more ungodliness.” (2:16)
- “Avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.” (2:23)
So we are to hold fast to the sound words, and steer clear of the ridiculous stuff. This makes sense until I realize that almost everything lately seems to fall into the “foolish” category. How do we know when to fan the flame or when to let it die out? The truth is worth fighting for, but we have to be very careful about how we fight.
Are we arguing for the sake of it? Do we want to score points for our team? Put someone in their place? That isn’t of God, that’s just good old human pride. Our society as we know it is not only camped out here, they are entrenched. Whatever it takes to take “them” down a notch and bring “us” up is fair game.
By humbly correcting those that are in error, by showing people a better way… they are removed from the snare of the enemy (2:25). Humility and graciousness don’t make us pushovers, they simply make us true and effective disciples. As for those who are “always learning and never able to come to the truth” (3:7), those are the ones we are to avoid. Some people are more interested in the fight than the solution.
As the wise man Kenny Rogers said years ago… “You gotta know when to hold ’em… know when to fold ’em.”
We can stand up to injustice when need be. We can also walk away from the proverbial dumpster fires when we must. What a freeing thought that we don’t actually have to take every dramatic development on all at once.
This epistle is short, but I find it so relevant for us today. Things may not get easier. In fact, we are pretty much guaranteed that we are going to be sharing space with some unsavory and difficult characters. Paul tells us not to be ashamed to speak up, but do so with grace. “Be strong in grace!” he tells us… (2:1) Did you ever think of it that way? The grace of God makes us strong.
We are not fearful and we are not ashamed. Christians who are full of grace and full of truth are what the world needs. Less witty comebacks and hot-takes… more time with Jesus.
“…love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power that eventually transforms individuals.” Martin Luther King