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Above Reproach

1 Timothy 5:1-2
Never speak harshly to an older man, but appeal to him respectfully as you would to your own father. Talk to younger men as you would to your own brothers. Treat older women as you would your mother, and treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters.

 

In the current moral crisis of our day, here is a passage of scripture where I find my footing and pray that I am a model of obedience. Not for praise or manipulation but just because it is the way I want to live my life. I certainly have no excuse for not living out the commands in these two verses. I saw this scripture modeled before me often as I grew up, and I witnessed a disdained contrast when people didn’t live by it.

I think about our church in light of what is going on in the world. Every day there are more and more accusations directed towards men who haven’t lived by these commands. If every man in our church—and I include myself—could be lined up and examined by these words, how would we do? How would I do? And yet this passage covers more than just the relationships between men and women.

It pains me to think that there are even a few kids who walk in this place never having enjoyed a mutually respectful relationship with an older person. Perhaps never having a father or grandfather in their own lives, some of these kids wouldn’t even know how to acknowledge the presence of an older person in an appropriate way. I think about how my parents drilled me over and over again, relentlessly, until it became a natural part of my character—“Yes ma’am.” “Yes sir.” “Good morning.” “May I help you?”

I still remember the training it took to transform my response toward older men and women.  I live with it still today as a result of its thoroughness and the grace of God. But what about the kids, and there are many, who have never been treated with respect or seen others treated with it. I’m trying to pass down this posture of respect for the aged to my own children and still asking for the grace of God to produce the fruit. Are we together in this?  I hope so. The world needs our example if not our rebuke.

I also want my sons to speak with their brothers at home in a respectful way. Even in the context of sibling rivalry, to speak to each other in a way that while competitive is not destructive. I want them especially to look for ways to encourage their brothers. Affirm them. Call them higher in pursuit of a pure and strong character. My hunch is that if they practice it at home, the transfer of similar communication will be attempted with their peers. May every decade of our church demographic be mindful of how we respect the one before us and the one coming after without forgetting the immediate context of its own.  May we speak with each other as brothers and sisters.

Perhaps what the world needs from us now more than ever is the demonstration of family purity. It should sicken us to think of our brothers and sisters as nothing more than sexual objects. I concede that we live in a day where even that image is desensitized, but let it not be so in the church of God and among His people. Men, how would it shape your understanding of the woman you work with if the first thought you had of her was as of a daughter or sister? She is someone’s daughter, and likely someone’s sister. What if she was your daughter or sister? How would that shape your thoughts of her? Most likely you would shift in your mind from predator to protector, perverted to pure, just by surrendering your selfishness to a simple consideration.

To think that Paul gave Timothy this instruction so long ago is proof that our sinful behavior has been around a long time. If the world cannot look at the church of Christ right now and see the difference in the way we treat each other, then what good are we in this world? How has the gospel made any difference in our own community? Let them mock us for purity not revile us for participation. God help us.