Timothy, I thank God for you—the God I serve with a clear conscience, just as my ancestors did. Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. I long to see you again, for I remember your tears as we parted. And I will be filled with joy when we are together again.
I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (New Living Translation)
Every individual person I meet is interesting. Everyone has a story. Each person has values which are important to them.
The Apostle Paul had quite the story of conversion to Christianity. And so, he understandably had a high value of passing on the faith to reliable and competent persons who would then do the same. Timothy was one of those persons, a protégé of his mentor Paul.
Paul reminded Timothy of his identity, rooted in a faithful family, and encouraged him to tap into that robust spirit which resides within him. The Apostle encouraged him to fully express that spirit without fear or timidity.
For example, I care about kids. Children are a high value to both me and my wife. When meeting and engaging a family for the first time, we will inevitably talk to the child before addressing the parents. We care about any issue in the world which has to do with children – and we have a strong sense of morality concerning children because we love kids.
Be faithful to your calling, and to the values and ethics which undergird it. Whatever is important to us is where our sense of morality and ministry lie.
Everyone is moralistic because everyone cares about something. And we will live and die by our code of ethics, grounded in the values we most cherish.
In Holy Scripture, although there are hundreds of laws in the Bible, the highest standard of ethics and morality is contained in just a few chapters: The Ten Words (Commandments) found in the Old Testament chapter of Exodus 20; and Christ’s Sermon on the Mount found in the New Testament chapters of Matthew 5-7.
These few chapters can be distilled into a few short ethical phrases:
“Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” And “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
This means that every teaching found in the Bible comes down to love. (Mark 12:30-31)
Throughout the history of the church, the highest ethical values have always had to do with knowing and loving the Creator, Sovereign, and triune God – Father, Son, and Spirit – and the majesty of people who are created in the divine image and likeness.
The movement and trajectory of Holy Scripture is that a good and benevolent God makes and keeps promises to people. Even when they fall and try to create small petty worlds of their own, a gracious God is active, wooing lost people to return to the spirit which resides within them.
Therefore, the Bible is an unfolding drama of redemption in which a loving God goes out of the way to bring back straying, hurting, helpless people. (Luke 15)
Which is why, for me, attending to the inner soul, teaching people the words and ways of Jesus, and providing spiritual care to others is a very high value. I love God, and I love people. It’s easy to understand, then, why I treasure the following:
- Practicing solitude, silence, and other spiritual disciplines.
- Connecting with God daily in contemplative prayer and meditative Bible reading.
- Paying attention to hurting people and bringing them grace, mercy, faith, hope, love, and gentleness.
- Seeking to act with civility and respect toward others I disagree with, or just don’t like very well.
- Engaging others who don’t share my values of faith in God.
- Praying and hoping for people to be healed and whole.
- Pursuing the common good of all people, no matter who they are.
My deep conviction is that the care of the soul is just as important as the care of the body; that attention to exercising the mind with Holy Scripture is just as important to overall health and well-being as cardio workouts and sensible eating; and that the hope of the world resides with knowing Jesus Christ (and not with a lesser hope that wishes things will work out in the end if I’m sincere to my personal ethical beliefs).
Paul wanted Christians to engage in the care of souls, to fan into flame the spiritual gifts which already lie within us, even if they may seem dormant or non-existent.
So, be faithful to who you are, to what you have been called to, and especially to the good news:
For there is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time. (1 Timothy 2:5-6, NLT)
Great God and Father of all, remember the multitudes who have been created in your image but have not known the redeeming work of our Savior Jesus Christ; and grant that, by the prayers and labors of your Church, they may be brought to know and worship you as you have been revealed in your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.