Friday, August 8, 2008

Treat them like family (cause they are)

Two things jumped out at me on reading 1 Timothy last week. In 5:1-2 Paul instructs Timothy on the proper way a pastor/elder should relate to those in his care.

Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father. Treat younger men like brothers, older women like mothers, younger women like sisters, in all purity.

I believe we can apply this beyond the specific context and see here a paradigm of how every member of the "household of faith" (Gal. 6:10) should relate to one another. This admonition is a natural outgrowth of the family language found throughout Paul's letters, indeed throughout the New Testament. Jesus didn't do away with family ties, but he strikingly redefined them (see Matt. 12:46-50, Luke 14:26). In the New Testament church blood-bought ties (Rev. 5:9) trump blood ties. We are the ekklesia -- the called out ones. "A chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation...God's people." (1 Peter 2:9-10) This lofty language describes a reality that's hard to see sometimes. Uncle Screwtape counseled nephew Wormwood to make his patient's mind "flit to and fro between an expression like 'the body of Christ' and the actual faces in the next pew." (C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters) Succeed in that, and soon disillusionment with the church would set in.

But back to 1 Timothy 5:1-2. What might this look like in practice? Pastor John Day of Bellewood PCA shares an example.

Those who engage in various ministries in our churches (whether paid staff or volunteer) aren't just people -- they're family. The pastors and support staff are not just employees who can be chastised and sacked with hardly a second thought; deacons, nursery workers, Sunday school teachers, and choir members are not just volunteers who can be used up and thrown away -- they're my father or mother, my sister, or brother. We are to strive for excellence, yes; but encouragement must be our motto, and the code we live by. One person I would like to highlight in my own church is our 92-year-old organist, who has devoted his life and talents to the Lord. And what a blessing he is. Now, he'd be the first to tell you that he's no spring chicken (and is beginning to feel increasingly the frailties of his age). But as I've said to him on more than one occasion: "As long as you feel able and want to continue to play, we'd love to keep you as our organist." That's a completely different attitude than you'll find in the world...and it's supposed to be!

Church Is Family, Modern Reformation (July/August 2008)

In closing, I think it's implicit in the way Paul and the other New Testament writers speak of the church that it's to be a multi-generational community. Just like family! Something to think about in a society where churches are increasingly segmented according to age.

Tomorrow I'll briefly note another wonderful admonition from this highly doctrinal, yet highly practical epistle.

No comments: