For some reason this morning, rather than doing my usual devotional (either The Upper Room online or Experiencing the Heart of Jesus, which we are using for our small group), when I opened my Bible it fell to 2 Timothy and I decided to read that instead. I've said before that I am not a Biblical scholar, and it is probably obvious to anyone that has been reading these posts. So, at the risk of being completely wrong, it is my understanding that 2 Timothy is Paul, from prison and as he neared death, writing to Timothy to encourage and instruct him in his ministry. Kind of a "passing the torch" letter.
In any event, I don't recall having read this book before. There was a lot that I was really drawn to, and will probably call upon at other times. But, what I want to write about today is the teachings on how to go about spreading the word of God. How to interact with people. When to press and when to back off.
Sometimes I see people that are so aggressive in their faith. It seems like they are looking for a fight, for the chance to tell you that you and your beliefs are wrong. Their approach is judgmental and divisive. You get the sense that they don't care about you, they just want to change your behavior or put a notch in their belt. When I interact with those people, they don't turn me on to God, they turn me off. Perhaps understanding this, Paul, who suffered for his faith more than any of us could ever even begin to imagine, suggested that Timothy take a less aggressive approach.
"And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth . . . ." 2 Timothy 2:24-25
You don't lead someone to a relationship with Christ by arguing with them about it, or threatening them, or condemning their behavior. That is the whole point. It is what I wrote about yesterday and what I have written about other times. You may be able to force someone to do certain things, or say certain things, but you can't force a relationship with Christ. As Paul suggests, you teach, you show, you instruct, you lead, you help, you demonstrate, you live, you love, you support, you encourage, you pray.
But, equally important, you don't ignore. You don't turn a blind eye.
"Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry." 2 Timothy 4:2-5
We are called to be active. To share and teach what we know is the truth, not just what someone wants to hear. And, when we know someone is seeking that type of "counsel," we must correct and rebuke. It isn't easy. I know that often, in the spur of the moment, I ignore. Or I avoid the hard issues and go with the easy answer. It is funny, I would never consider that approach in my job. I often have to advise clients to do something other than what they want to do, or I have to lead them down a difficult road. But when it comes to discussing life issues with friends or colleagues, sometimes (not always) I just punt.
It may just be a definitional issue (and I may write about it another day), but I think all of us are called to be in ministry - each in the way God has chosen for us. Paul's words are not just to Timothy, they are to all of us - "keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry." Hopefully, we can all do that while keeping in mind Paul's advice about how to do it.
God Bless You and have a great weekend!