Today as I was reading 2 Timothy 3 I was struck by perspective. All too often I read the first five verses relating to those outside the church, the infamous “them” the bad ones. Here are the verses:
“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” 2 Timothy 3:1–5 (ESV)
Notice it? We know these people, they don’t belong to a “gospel-centered” church, they are not part of our tribe or brand. They probably let women preach and wear sandals to church. They are definitely Democrats. Maybe they are Charismatics… or Presbyterians (depending on your persuasion.)
Or… maybe they are not in fact “they.” This is us.
Think of the context. Written by Paul to Timothy, the young pastor of the church at Ephesus. This is instruction of how and who to disciple within that context. Within the church. This came to bear for me in light of our current pandemic. I found myself seeing different people falling into these categories than usual. The people I know as “us” versus “them.” I also found myself in this warning.
An opportunity then arises for repentance and seeking the Lord for the “power of godliness” and the steadfastness that gets us through (according to 2 Timothy 3).
We do not lead churches where anything goes. Where you cannot teach those who already know everything. We humble ourselves and seek truth in Scripture (not our own hearts) and live in light of Christ’s work, not our desires for control or money… or pleasure, as we read.
Let us not build our lives, our churches, our communities on these things that Paul calls Timothy to avoid. Let us run to Christ for renewal, for remaking. For our good and his glory.