There are many ways to skin a cat, ok, not sure why they wanted to skin the thing in the first place, but I think the old saying has something to do with there being multiple ways to go about doing it. I’m sure the skinned cat does not really care, but that is not really the point.
As far as I know, every believer sins. Some will debate that sentence, but just concede it to me for the sake of this blog post so we can move along. Good people make mistakes, fail, fall short, leave out what they should do and do incorrectly what they do end up doing. Lovers of Jesus lose their tempers, give into lust, allow hurts and unforgiveness to dwell in their mind, give way too much grace to themselves and way too little to everyone else. In short, only Jesus is perfect and everyone else is in some state of imperfection.
So, what do we do about that? How do we walk with those other sinners, or if you prefer, imperfect, not completed, work-in-process, mistake prone saints? Over the last thirty years or so of serving as a pastor I can safely say that there are at least two types of people. There are many different shades, but again for the sake of moving along, let’s stay simple. There are those that are more black and white oriented and those that lean towards being grayer in focus. The first group tends to like very straight lines and clear boundaries and second prefer a bit more curved with flexible interpretations. Both have a tendency to think the other is mostly wrong.
For me, I seem to bounce between the two. On some points I am strong and mostly inflexible and on others I want softness and bending. Am I confused? Probably, but that is not really the point of this blog either. While I have been on an extended vacation I have been chewing on this verse:
2 Timothy 2:24 – And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (ESV)
Paul wrote to his young spiritual son Timothy, just before Paul was going to be executed. Paul knew his time of departure was at hand, and I imagine that if I knew my death was near, I would write what was very important. I would want those that read my last words to know that these principles are what I want remembered after my death.
Paul encourages Timothy to be kind, teach well, and patiently endure evil. I assume Paul meant the evil in others based on the rest of the verse. Timothy would spend the rest of his life surrounded by imperfect people. Sinful people. How did Paul tell him to deal with them? Kindly, patiently endure evil, offering correction with gentleness. Timothy would correct and teach, but God is the one that grants repentance leading to truth and freedom.
I need to learn this. My job is to not be quarrelsome, but kind to everyone. Everyone? Ok, everyone. I need to learn to teach as best and I can with the God-given resources provided. I need to learn how to be patient with others, in particular, with their sin and evil. Yes, correction of others is part of the process, but with gentleness. If I do my part well, God may perhaps grant them repentance and freedom from the trap they live in.
Wow, I have a lot of growing to do. Some of the frustration between the two types of people enters in with the definition of undefined words. The Bible is frustrating some times to me for that very reason. Why didn’t God define, with precision the actions He wanted us to take? For example:
- What does not be quarrelsome mean? Where does debating and clarifying fit in? How do I correct someone without seeming to be argumentative?
- What does be kind mean? How kind is kind, and who determines that anyway?
- What does patiently enduring evil mean? How long? What evil? All manner of evil, or just some of it? How long is patient enough?
- Who are the opponents and how gentle is gentle? What does correcting mean?
- Why does it say, God “may grant” instead of “will grant” repentance? And, what does leading to the knowledge of the truth mean?
I could go on to how did they become ensnared in the first place? What role did the devil play? So, the devil does have a will, and how do we know what that will is? Just a glimpse into my thought process, but enough is enough.
As I chew over and over on this passage, it becomes clear to me that there are many ways to define the words used. There are multiple shades of meaning, and more importantly, their applications in personal relationships than I have thought of before.
This much I know with certainty. I am a servant of the Lord. The rest of Paul’s charge is being learned and lived out in varying degrees. How kind am I really? How argumentative do I remain? How patient am I with other’s sins and shortcomings? Am I always gentle? Am I really as concerned with people being delivered from the snare of the devil as I am with being right in my opinions and views?
The bottom line is I need to prayerfully consider this verse’s fulfillment in others more, while continuing asking the Lord to be gentle with me, and perhaps granting me repentance in the places where I fall so short. As someone stated years ago, “We all have areas we need to grow in, and they called blind spots for a reason – we don’t see them.”