If this is your first viewing, please see my Introduction before reading this.
15 December. 2 Timothy chapters 1-4
Following Paul’s first letter to Timothy explaining the duties he had as a church leader (9 December), he now writes again – we don’t know how much later – with more specific advice about dealing with particular difficulties in church life. These include “wrangling over words … [and] profane chatter” (2:14-16) and “stupid and senseless controversies” (2:23). Common problems in churches where disagreements between people who have different ideas about the “right way to do things” can come to seem more important than the real work of worship, mission and pastoral care. Later, he warns of another danger – that of people who will “not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths” (4:3-4). Paul’s guidance to dealing with all these is to be “kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness” (2:24), rather than aggressively taking one side or another in an argument.
Paul also lists many unattractive and unchristian qualities that can be found in people outside the church, but which he warns can also be found inside it, which he sums up as “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power” (3:4-5); he also warns against those who seek control over other people and set out to deceive them.
In any congregation (and occasionally even among the clergy) we sometimes find such people who claim to belong to the church but give no indication of having understood or claimed for themselves the way of Christ which is self-denial, serving others, humility and love for neighbour. Not only does this break up the fellowship within a congregation, but the media always love a “church scandal” whether it is a story of sexual abuse, or a treasurer who siphons off some of the church’s money like a modern-day Judas, or a vicar who splits the congregation with her own extreme views.
Church leaders deserve our prayers and friendship, because it is not an easy role at the best of times and can be very difficult when there are particular problems. Often, their commitment to confidentiality means that they cannot even share with other people within the congregation the pressures that they are under. They may find help in a spiritual director or the support of their bishop or equivalent, but it can still be a lonely life.
Paul’s word of encouragement to Timothy in these difficult times is to “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead …If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him” (2:9-12). Pray that your church leaders will know His presence today.