Monday, May 6, 2013

Examples, Good and Bad (2 Timothy 1:15-18)

These four little verses in 2 Timothy are great. Sometimes it seems like these little interludes are out of place in scripture. They are like the little bits of detritus that got attached to all the teaching God was imparting through inspiration; the inconsequential parts.

Rather than ignore them, some try to squeeze out the hidden codes, the secret meanings that show these verses are still relevant to us today some two millennia later. How do Phygelus, Hermogenes, and Onesiphorus exemplify the way believers should (or should not) live and minister today? That may not be a bad idea, but I like to take a different approach.

This is a wholly recognizable experience of the life of someone working in church life. It is good to see Paul come across as a normal human being with feelings and struggles and not some super confident hero of the faith. Here he has suffered greatly and been imprisoned for his faith; and some believers have abandoned him in his hardship.

We can’t be too sure of the details, but you have to imagine that Paul had people who never really liked him. Once he was imprisoned I am sure there were those who used that opportunity to advance their own views, knock him down a bit, or justify the bad things they had been thinking and saying about Paul all along. We see this sort of thing today amongst people in churches, and not always between people whom we would consider worldly or “weak” believers. Sometimes good men and women in leadership disagree with each other in petty ways.

Here we are safe in saying that a man like Onesiphorus is the better example, of course. He provides a great service in sticking by, encouraging, and not being ashamed of Paul. Civility and love are approaches in life that can never be bad ideas. Even when you think someone is taking a bad approach it might be best to let someone else be their judge. It seems to me there may be some other passages about that very idea…

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