1 Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, 2 the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.
We are entering the chapter where Paul instructs Timothy about the widow problem that is found in Ephesus. I was just getting ready to say my usual, “this is one of those sentences we tend to gloss over,” and I realized that I say it a lot. It’s amazing how much cut and paste theology we actually subscribe to. This is why I enjoy going through books of the bible systematically like this: you’re forced to read it all.
Family isn’t as important these days as it was back then. We see some cultures value family more than in others. American society has become so individualistic that the younger generations regard their families with less and less esteem. This isn’t to say that family values still aren’t embraced, but rather that the tide of relationships is going out and it has become easier for us on a moral standpoint to disregard our families. I say this because we need to fully understand the implication of Paul using familial relationships to get his point across here. At the time of this writing, family was the most important relationship you could have. If someone was related to you with blood, there was not a whole lot that could disrupt the importance of your bond with your family.
The word rebuke is meant to represent “chastising with words,” or even “beat up.” The word appeal here represents “exhort, comfort, and instruct.” Paul’s point? Don’t attack one another with accusation but rather if you have a problem with someone, approach them lovingly like you would your family: with all respect and purity of heart. If you cannot approach someone in this way, then maybe you need to let your emotions cool off first.
I am certainly guilty of not doing this. In my own self-righteous knowledge of how things “should be” I have told others they were wrong. I have shaken my head countless times at things I see in the news. I have wrongly judged others because of their beliefs and either flat out rejected them because of it or created confrontation out of it. Our society has created an environment based on right and wrong. When we let this dictate our reactions with others, we are not living in God’s Kingdom, instead we are living of this world. Yesterday we talked about the spiritual gift of God’s love. It is the filter through which we are to approach others if we have a problem.
Despite the many times I have failed at exhortation, I can say that I have at least attempted to do it lovingly as well. It is amazing how God honors our love for others, despite our feelings. Relationships are not only restored, but renewed and strengthened. It is difficult to do because it wars against our nature of telling someone else they are wrong, proving our own righteousness, and looking for that “I’m sorry, you are right” response from our victim. Even if you are right, it does no good. The person you confronted is hurt and ashamed; your ego is boosted and your pride grows.
Is there someone who is getting on your nerves? Has someone in your life done something that rubs you the wrong way? Have you developed a plan or scenario in your head to “give them a good talking to?” If we cannot do it in a way that communicates love first, we are going to fail at it. Keep the situation in prayer. Ask God for peace of the situation and love for the person with whom you are dealing. Plan to approach them in a way that doesn’t make them feel like a combatant, but rather like your brother, sister, father, or mother. Make them feel like the most important person in your world at the moment.