Theme: Do Not Be Ashamed
In this week’s lessons, we look at three important charges Paul gives to Timothy.
Scripture: 2 Timothy 1:1-14
It seems that today you can talk about practically anything in polite society. It used to be that there were certain subjects you would not talk about, and people knew what they were. But today there does not really seem to be such a thing as “polite society” because you can talk about almost anything—no matter how vile, dirty, or corrupt. But you can’t talk about Jesus Christ in such settings. As soon as you mention his name people will not want to hear about it. I was talking with someone after church one morning, listening to her tell a story about this very thing. She was speaking with someone who is hostile to Christianity. It was at a restaurant for breakfast, and so it was a very relaxed situation. At one point, in a casual way she mentioned something she did because she was a Christian. That’s all she said, and yet the person to whom she was talking broke out and told her not to use that word. This hostile woman then said that one time a girl was over at this woman’s house playing with her daughter. And when the visiting girl used the word “Christian” this woman got so upset she actually sent the little girl home. It’s amazing that someone who would consider herself an educated member of sophisticated society would react that way. But even in such “respectable” social circles you can’t talk about the Lord Jesus Christ.
But even in the church Christians can at times be ashamed of Christ or other Christians. Now there are times when Christians do shameful things. When that happens, we should be ashamed that such a thing should take place within the company of God’s people, who have been redeemed from sin. And we should pray that we might not do shameful things ourselves that would dishonor our Lord and cause other Christians to be ashamed of us. But that’s not what Paul is talking about here. Instead, he is saying that there are Christians, and he uses himself as an example, who have taken a stand for the gospel, and because they have stood effectively for the gospel they are scorned by the world, and in Paul’s case even arrested and locked up in prison.
Some Christians who are doing well and are not yet suffering for Christ are afraid to identify themselves with Christians too closely because they don’t want their comfortable life to change. Perhaps Paul is aware of the possibility that someone could link him and Timothy together, and because Paul is now a Roman prisoner someone might think badly of Timothy for being associated with someone like Paul. And Timothy might be tempted to distance himself from Paul, and act as if the two of them are not as close as they are. Paul is exhorting Timothy not to be ashamed of Paul or any other Christian who suffers for the gospel’s sake. These are the very people with whom we should be proud to be identified.
We know from 1 Corinthians how people viewed the gospel as Paul traveled throughout the Roman world. He knew that the gospel was a source of shame and offense. It was a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks. And anyone who believed this gospel was scorned and persecuted by both Jews and Gentiles. Paul understood how the world looked down on these things we as Christians hold precious. Yet, Paul wrote to the Corinthians that what the Jews regarded as a stumbling block, Paul found to be the foundation of revealed religion. And what the Greeks regarded as foolishness in comparison to their exaltation of mere human wisdom, Paul found to be the wisdom of God that makes one wise unto salvation.
What has contributed to the relaxing of public standards for certain subjects in society?
Why did Paul face opposition from both Jews and Greeks for his witness to Christ?
Reflection: How does our own society try to suppress Christian witness?