Nov 26 2017 1 Tim. 5 - Day-to-day Relationships in the Church
26th November 2017
by Mike Marette
Lord, thank You for Your creation and all You have given us, and how You met us in this world. You created this world as a place to meet You, know You, love You and be loved by You. You made all these things that we might enjoy them – and to appreciate all that You have given. All good things are from above, from the Father above, in whom there is no darkness or shadow.
1 Timothy 5:1 Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, 2 the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.
Paul is looking at daily relationships in the church. He will address some of the more sensitive and difficult relationships in the church.
We all know this: Relationships are hard – whether in the family or workplace or church. It is really hard to make relationships work – and we think it should be easy here in the church. But the reality is – sometimes – church people can be mean. Sometimes downright nasty. Churches can become political – and I don’t mean that they support the republicans or democrats (though some do that), but rather that there is an environment in the church that resembles our secular political environment – meaning how we get along with others can look like a political campaign - like how candidates get along in a campaign!
Paul gives instructions to the church – and begins with family words – brothers/sisters/mothers/fathers. And even though there is value to organization and business in the church – there is a need for managerial things, but way beyond, the church should function as a family.
When I say family, Paul is speaking of the ideal family – because the reality is for some – the term ‘family‘ does not evoke positive emotions.
I dropped my car off to get worked on – and the guy who drove me back to church – I asked – what are you doing for Thanksgiving – you would think that would be a good conversation starter. “I might go visit some friends” – do you not have family in town? “Family is not a good thing, so we don’t get together” – so people think – if the church is like that, why would I want another one of those?
For everyone, there are family issues. 100 percent of the people I’ve ever spoken with about it have family issues - and those issues distort our image of how relationships ought to work in God’s family. We tend to bring in our regular baggage into God’s family, and that can make the church a mess.
Here is the good news: If the church can become a better family – functioning as a generally healthy family – people will be attracted to Christ through the church, because it is what they don’t have today.
Many don’t have even a picture of what a healthy family could look like. And if the church could become that to some, that would be dynamic. And so we have to ask ourselves – are we really willing to go there as people? Am I really willing to take people from different backgrounds and become family? I think that is what Paul is saying. I think He is asking for that. And it is not an easy thing. It is much easier if church were a club, a civic organization, or a business. And by club – I don’t mean a place you go to dance and drink – but more like Kiwanis. I guess some might be attracted to the other definition of club…
It is just easier to go be a consumer – enjoy, get excited, but it is a lot harder when it becomes your family.
The words Paul uses – mothers/fathers/brothers/sisters - do not sharply rebuke…
Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, 2 the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.
The word he is getting at is ‘Respect’. He wants everyone to respect one another. Especially toward older people. There is often (and even in the church) an adversarial relationship between the generations. At least an inability to understand. It was like that in my generation.
Does anyone remember The Generation Gap? Maybe it was an East Coast thing… It was the worst game show ever – you can YouTube it…
It is an issue today. Why are there generational adversarial relationships?
Older folks – and I now count myself as one of them – they are unwilling to change and adapt for younger folks.
We need to allow us to grow and move forward. Younger folks often are unwilling to understand that they are younger and there is a tremendous amount of wisdom to be learned from the older.
Every generation thinks that they have found it – until they hit about 45. And then we realize how much we have learned and how much we have yet to learn. The generations desperately need one another.
Family-spirit killers in the church:
1 – A competitive spirit. When people have a competitive spirit, it kills. It can literally kill – like Cain and Abel. I’m not talking about playing sports.
2 – A factious spirit. A word in regard to relationships - Triangulation – it is a term that navigational things use to tell us where to go. But in relationships – it is where a child pits one parent against the other. And it destroys relationships. Another way it happens – when an in-law – or outlaw – if you’d rather – talks to their daughter or son against the spouse.
The way that works in the church – when A has a problem with B and goes to C to try to get C on their side against person B.
There is no room for it in the church.
3 – My way or the highway - getting my way – the attitude – it has to go my way. A couple books that have great titles (I’m not recommending that you read them) – Sacred Cows Make Gourmet Hamburgers – there are many sacred cows in churches - the way it has always been done is the way it should be – that sacred cow makes a great hamburger – only good for hamburger. Well Intentioned Dragons – great title – because all of us have well intentioned dragons. Let me say it another way – all of us, at some time, ARE well-intentioned dragons!
Passive aggressive behavior is just as bad.
4 - Gossip – church, by nature, has a respect for and demands confidentiality. If a church is to work as it is to work (well and properly), people open up and share their deepest hurts – and when that is happening – and that is supposed to happen in a church – and the respect for confidentiality is crucial. Gossip will just destroy relationships.
5 – Trust – People tend to have a hard time trusting people they don’t agree with. This does not mean that we don’t challenge, correct, and reprove one another. You can do all that and still maintain genuine trust in others. We don’t have to agree with someone to trust them. What happens in relationships – there is disagreement over how something should be done – and that disagreement causes a lack of trust. The reality is that we can disagree and still have trust – the living proof is Cindy and I – we have disagreements on so many things – disagreements at home, church and in politics – but there is trust.
1 timothy 5:3 Honor widows who are widows indeed; 4 but if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God.
In Paul’s culture – widows were some of the neediest and most marginalized people – and there were many – and because of their culture – they did not have social services – and they would be poor. This is such a problem because in Acts 6, the apostles had to figure it out. This is so important that Paul spends 14 verses on widows. That is more than he spends on elders and deacons! But he gives a process for the church to determine if financial support should be given to widows. I won’t go through it. Read it yourself – there are ways to determine if a widow is in need of the church’s help.
First is to discern – is it a legitimate need? This is the responsibility of the church to discern. Don’t assume the answer there. Some – let’s be honest – their assumption is no, they are not, or others, yes they are – but it starts there. Paul talks about – are there other things this widow needs to do or isn’t doing?
8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
1st Discern – legitimate need
2nd – family comes first in meeting the need.
In our situation – there is help from governmental resources – have they taken advantage of the resources that are made available to them. Once it is determined that there is a genuine need – the church helps.
Widows - James
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (Jam 1:27 TNIV)
Look after widows. What is good religion? Some say – it is being holy – not being polluted by the world. Yep. Others say – it is taking care of widows and the poor. Yep. Both. The church has that responsibility.
More Widow verses:
Leviticus - 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigners residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.
The LORD protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow, But He thwarts the way of the wicked.
What we need to ask ourselves – who are the neediest people in our context? How do we engage in supporting them?
Back to the elderly – in our context, some are doing quite well. Others are struggling. But what I have found – most elderly folks tend to be lonely and have significant relationship needs.
I was talking to someone last week – they have a secret ministry – I noticed – this person has a way of connecting with elderly men who are alone. He would go to nursing homes – and noticed that most programs are women-centered – so he would do things for the guys – get them together and do ‘guy stuff’- like going to a car show - and they loved it. Recently one of them passed away and he was able to bring the gospel at the very last moment to that person’s life.
You probably have neighbors who are older and who are lonely. Maybe family members. But you say – that is not that important. But God says it is PURE religion – to care for folks like that.
It could be the immigrant population. The Old Testament is always talking about the ‘alien among you’ – those who are not from this land – there are opportunities to be personally engaged with them.
Kids with one parent or without parents. There are deep needs there.
Divorce – a really hard thing for people.
God calls us, in each of our circumstances – where is the needy person you can get involved with? Get personally engaged.
After talking 14 verses on widows, Paul talks about leadership, and we already talked about that a few weeks ago, so I will refer you there – and so I will jump to the last set of relationships that Paul talks about –
1 Tim. 6:All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against.
We think there is no sensitivity going on here. Paul talks about the relationship that is one of the most difficult – the slave and his master. This is a delicate situation. You think of this world where there are those who own slaves and treat them poorly. It was not a nice thing. It was an undesirable thing – and you have slaves that might be going to church with their masters. Or it might be Christians who are slaves and have unbelievers as masters. There is nothing Paul can do to change their context.
It would be like us saying – The Internet is bad, no one should use it!
Some use Paul to affirm slavery. This is a gross misunderstanding of the Bible.
60% of the Roman Empire were slaves!
Paul refers to slaves - All who are under the yoke as slaves – what is a yoke used for? Oxen – beasts of burden. He is basically saying – for all of you who are treated like animals, I get it – I understand – it is horrible. But you have no options – if they run away – they may be killed. They are stuck. He is also wanting masters to know – you are treating them like animals. And Paul is saying – use it as an opportunity for public witness.
2 Those who have believers as their masters must not be disrespectful to them because they are brothers, but must serve them all the more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers and beloved. Teach and preach these principles.
He can’t re-orient the world, but he can re-orient the church. When he says they are brothers, he is equalizing the relationship – you are equals – you are brothers. SO the master’s attitude toward the slave must be dramatically changed.
In Christ, there is a way for even the most difficult relationships to be reconciled and for people to treat each other as family.
What is that for you personally? Where are your difficult relationships? And know that those relationships can be reconciled and can become as family – and I think what we need to do – is put ourselves in the shoes of a master/slave. You think – your relationship is hard? First – equalize it – equalize the relationship. And to do that, there are things we need to do –
First – remove any attitude of superiority. Rip it out. Whether it be – I’m more spiritual, I’m smarter, I’m more successful – I’m a man, you’re a woman – or I’m a woman, you’re a man – but in Christ, there is utter equality.
In Christ – there is no longer slave or free – it doesn’t exist – male or female – it doesn’t exist – we are all one – and it is with that attitude that the most difficult relationships can be reconciled.