I’m not sure why Paul sees the need to address the topic of relationships in the church, he must not know that there are rarely relational issues in the church (yes, that was sarcasm). While this is certainly not exhaustive, here are a few ideas I think Paul is communicating here in 1 Tim 5 about the type of relationships that exist in the church.
Paul is instructing on how to live with one another because he’s assuming just that, we are going to LIVE with one another. Being part of a church community isn’t like being part of a club or interest group which you may be apart of for a season and then exit when its no longer an interest to you or you get too busy. Being part of the church is like being part of a family (I know for some that carries a lot of baggage, but hang with me), which is why he uses familial terms here (Father, brother, mother, sister). It means that our connection to one another is not based on affinity, comfort, or ease of relationship. Now hear the good news of the gospel—even though we know we’ll not always live up to these instructions, we’ll continue to be forgiven and loved and by grace we’ll extend forgiveness, encourage, and love one another in the midst of all that.
You remember the song by Aretha Franklin which answers the question “How do you spell love?” The answer is of course R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Well, I’m not sure if she knew it or not, but she got that from the Apostle Paul (who got it from Jesus). That is a good way to summarize what Paul is saying here- What do relationships look like within the church? Respect which flows from love. Younger men, older men, younger women, older women, all treating each other with respect.
By giving these instructions Paul is assuming there will be relational interaction between these groups, and ALL of these groups. Notice the lack of isolation here. Its not simply “Older men, as you interact with each other…” and its not even “men, as you interact with other men”. Rather a community where Older women have relationships with younger men. Where younger women are relationships with older men. All informed by love, and as Paul states at the end of v.2 “purity”. This is normal in a family, but very foreign in any other social groups in our world. I remember a quote from my friend and fellow pastor Matt Martin that has stuck with me— “It would be a sad thing if the world had to look outside the church to find out what appropriate male/female friendships looked like.” That goes for ALL relationships, of course, but we can often become very segregated in the church (men over here, women over here) which doesn’t seem to coincide with what Paul is instructing here.
by Pastor Ryan Stanley
- What motivates your relationships?
- Is there diversity in your relationships (older men, older women,
younger men, younger women)? If not, why not? If so, how has God
- How have you experienced hurt in relationships? How has God been healing you from that or what would healing from that look like? Who could you share these thoughts with?
- Spend some time meditating on these verses and ask the question: God, what are you inviting me into as I meditate on these verses?