Respecting Kingdom Citizens
1Tim. 5:1 Do not speak harshly to an older man, but speak to him as to a father, to younger men as brothers, 2 to older women as mothers, to younger women as sisters—with absolute purity.
It seems that there were issues of multi-generational worship within the church of Ephesus. Usually instructions or comments are given because some type of incident has occurred and more than likely it had to do with an older person, or a person within a position of responsibility needing to be rebuked. No one is saying that just because someone is older and more experienced that they will never do anything wrong. The question is how the issue will be handled.
The encouragement here is to imagine that all of those within the church or kingdom are family members. The general principle at work here is that we are always to imagine all of those with whom we are serving as members of the same family. It doesn’t matter who they are, what gender, nationality or race they may be, we are to be treated as family. There is no superiority within the kingdom but there is complete and total respect.
We are also to labor to keep the family together. This is not a family that gives up when there are difficulties. Instead, this family works hard and is willing to work through their issues to make a real difference. There is no promise that this will be easy, but that we are to work at the relationship, trying not to expel them from the community of faith, but to keep them in.
This example in the life and ministry of Timothy could easily be repeated in the church today. Sadly we see far too much segregation when it comes to worship on Sunday mornings. The church growth movement led us to consider building attraction churches that would bring people people of a very focused demographic to church. In other words — let’s plant a church for young adults — or let’s plant a church for Gospel music loving seniors — etc. The problem is that this has segregated the kingdom of God.
Not only are we segregated by age, but we have become segregated by nationality and race. Is this really God’s intention for the family of God? These instructions to Timothy ought to be instructions to us as well. The entire idea of these verses is of inclusion. How do we help everyone feel included and a part of the family? Intentional suggestions are given to Timothy.
Intentional instructions for us today would include never speaking harshly to anyone! Reaching out in an intentional way to be inclusive in the family — “there is no longer any slave nor free…” we are all one in Christ. As such, the unity found in God should be found in us. Instead of being driven apart, we ought to be united together. God is calling us to respect every single member of the kingdom and to reflect this love and respect to the world. If the world can’t see this happening within the church, then something is terribly wrong. Timothy needed to be reminded and we take his reminder today as a “not so gentle nudge” that we must be respectful of our sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers, nieces and nephews — all kingdom family members.
Lord, please help me to see the kingdom the way you do and to love the way you love. Amen.