Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Thinking in 1 Timothy

Continuing my New Testament readings... today in 1 Timothy 1:

The whole point of what we're urging is simply love—love uncontaminated by self-interest and counterfeit faith, a life open to God. Those who fail to keep to this point soon wander off into cul-de-sacs of gossip. They set themselves up as experts on religious issues, but haven't the remotest idea of what they're holding forth with such imposing eloquence. 1 Timothy 1:5-7 [The Message]

It's difficult to read this verse and be someone who believes that one's faith should be lived out in the public square. Blowhards are a dime dozen, particularly on the internet. (For a thought-provoking post, on this, see Variety's analysis of web blowhards...) I do not want to become someone who is an "expert" without "the remotest idea" of what I'm talking about. There are far too many coached sound bites and far less discussion on important issues that we face as churches and as a nation!

And yet, to be silent and not speak up is just about impossible. Particularly when it is an issue that is a passion or an injustice that is too often ignored!

Rather than suggesting we NOT respond to the issues around us, I believe that this instruction is instead an exhortation to carefully, prayerfully and lovingly respond to the injustices and issues we see every day. It doesn't mean you start a snarky blog about someone who isn't the "right" flavor of religion. It also doesn't mean you make assumptions and then tell everyone what you think someone means (this is also called "gossip!") Finally, it doesn't mean that you mock other people because they don't preach/worship/dress/live the way you do. (Yeah. That sounds obvious. But I've heard -- and participated in -- these conversations. And so have you, if you're honest.)

So, "living a life open to God" means that you take the time to consider your off-the-cuff responses to life's situations. It requires some honest self-examination every day. And it means that you consider what it means to extend God's love to another human being. Caring without seeking your own agenda or self-interests. Correcting without trying to bolster your "niche" or "target audience."

That's a tall order. But after listening to several weeks of "How would Jesus insure?" I think that perhaps this verse is more apropos than we think!


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