Last time my mother visited Bangalore, she left a note for me on my table that had a detailed list of “things to do to become a better man”. It was funny for a while, but the more I read it, the more I realized how important those instructions are- and how far I am from being the kind of a son she expects me to be. She expects a gentleman to rise from the mess I am right now. Instructions included the careful use of social media, the folding of clothes, the throwing of garbage, the cleaning of the bathroom, the combing of hair and a wide variety of gentlemanly pursuits. Seldom has humour made so much sense.
The books of 1st Timothy and 2nd Timothy seem much like that. They are very personal. Paul the mentor writes to Timothy, his mentee- assuming the role of a spiritual father. I’ve read these books three times in the last couple of days and listed a set of virtues that Paul advised Timothy to inculcate. The words Paul used are strong.
The Olympics just got over. India got a silver medal in badminton- for the first time. I can’t but ponder that words like “fight, persist, endure, flee, run, press-on” are the kind a coach like Gopichand would use to train a Sindhu. If it wasn’t serious business, why would Paul pick these words? Is the Christian walk similar to the pursuit of an Olympian? Would those words be necessary for a walk in the park?
Timothy was advised to have a pure heart, humility, modesty, dignity, a birdled tongue, self-control, a clear conscience and a sincere faith. Paul reminded Timothy that he needed to live by 4Ps. Pray, practice, persist, and progress. Paul also suggested that Timothy be an ardent & faithful studier of scripture, a man who interceded for his people. Paul recommended an interest in politics (probably so Timothy could pray about his country). Other traits included living a dignified life that would demand respect. He was to be a hospitable man who wasn’t given to drinking and was always sober-minded, for that was how a servant of God was supposed to be. Greed, addictions, dishonesty, filthy language, violence, flirtation, womanizing were major no-nos.
Tom Hank’s Forrest Gump is one of my favorite movies of all time. Like how you would hear the phrase “Run Forrest, Run!!” many times in the movie, I can imagine good ol’ Paul screaming from the depth of his belly to Timothy “Run, Timothy! Run”
He writes saying “Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace along with those who call on the Lord with a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies- you know they breed quarrels.- The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will (2Timothy 2:22-26)”
He probably knew Timothy would ask the question, “But this is too difficult. Why should I work this hard? How is this going to be even possible to accomplish?” And so Paul said “Endure, Timothy! Endure! (2 Timothy 3) No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him (2 Timothy 2:4). Oh, and keep reading your Bible. (2 Timothy 3:14)”
Paul probably assumed that young Timothy would ask, “But Uncle Paul, why should I read my Bible? What’s the big deal?” So Paul wrote to him “Because ‘All scripture is breathed out by God!!! Literally the breath of God. It’s like oxygen for the soul and spirit. It is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. None of what I wrote is easy. But reading your Bible will help you be complete. It will help you be equipped for EVERY good work. You can’t pick the easy ones. No, Timothy! You have to work at all my instructions! The scripture enables you to do EVERY good thing” (2 Tim 3: 16-17)
I really like how Paul ended his letters to young Timothy. “Fare well, Timothy! May the Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you!”
Really, Paul’s instructions for Timothy were heavy. But Paul knew that none of what he wrote to Timothy would materialize if God wasn’t on Timothy’s side. If grace wasn’t given to Timothy, he would never be able to accomplish even a dot or a tittle of what was asked of him. We really need to humble ourselves and ask for grace that we may the run the race set before us! (James 4:6)
Aren’t we all like Timothy?
“Run, Timothy! Run! Otherwise you will be the cliché Christian who’s words will ring of nothing but religious rhetoric! Live, Timothy! Live. Endure. Fight. Flee. Pursue. Progress”