By L&T Columnist Gary Damron
After working through the words of Jesus on the cross, vitally important to our understanding of his sacrifice, I shifted focus to Paul. In 2 Timothy, Paul wrote some last instructions to the young pastor before his own martyr death.
In the letter, Paul expressed concern that believers in new Christian churches would be able to effectively share their faith. First, he urged them not to water down the essentials of the Gospel. “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead” (2:8). Then, “Keep reminding them of these things” (2:14). And finally, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved” (2:15).
There’s a common misconception that young people today don’t like religion. While there are parts of the organized church that turn them off, many teens and young adults are searching for a kind of “moralistic therapeutic deism”. They embrace causes in an effort to improve their world and make themselves feel good. They also easily recognize hypocrisy in those within the Church. Christians who stick to the message of the risen Christ have something appealing that will draw others to the Gospel of Jesus.
A second way to successfully share the Gospel is to avoid needless disagreement. “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels” (2:23).
There’s an old joke that when two Quakers gather to discuss something, there’ll be at least three points of view. Some of us can relate to those, “on the one hand...but on the other hand” times even when discussing only with our self. However, trying to argue on points that cause discomfort or anger in others will only hinder our witness. We may win the argument but lose the person.
Paul’s third point in 2 Timothy is to remain calm when faced with alarming statements or events. “God’s solid foundation stands firm,” he wrote in chapter 2, verse 19. Furthermore, “opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth” (2:25). Braced with intentional, kind, intelligent, calm behavior we represent Christ to a world who needs his message.
Each of the three instructions to God’s “children” has a parallel to human development. Infants are easily distracted; adolescents constantly try to prove they’re right, but mature adults learn to choose their battlegrounds and control their wants. Living in faith doesn’t mean simple-mindedness or closed-mindedness, but having the “mind of Christ.”
Paul wrote that Christians should be “instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work” (2 Timothy 2:21). An old saying seems to apply here: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things charity.” The bottom line is that as we find spiritual maturity we will leave behind the ignorance of infancy, the argumentativeness of adolescence, and we will grow in the peace and kindness of our Heavenly Father.