28. Respect & Honour People

Meditations in 1 Timothy: 28:  Respect and Honour People

1 Tim 5:1,2   Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.

We have seen, we have said, Paul instructing Timothy on various facets of leading the church in Ephesus. He has focused so far on general issues of exercising his ministry and upholding the word. Now Paul turns to more personal matters, or issues of dealing with people in the congregation.

Implied within all that he says, we should note, is the idea that leaders / elders / shepherds / overseers, call them what you will, are responsible for their flocks and not only does that mean preaching and teaching the flock, but caring for it and on occasion correcting it. Because he is a young man, Paul sees that Timothy may have a particular difficulty and it is in the way he deals with older men in the congregation. There may be times when a situation arises where he, as the leader, ought to speak to an older man about his behaviour.

How we treat other people is a sign or measure of how much God has done in us. Leaders can forget they are servants and think they have power and authority to throw around, but Paul thinks otherwise (read 2 Corinthians to catch his heart in this whole area). The apostle Peter taught, Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers.” (1 Pet 2:17). Paul in his teachings made it more specific: “the wife must respect her husband,” (Eph 5:33), “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect,” (Eph 6:5), “respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you,” (1 Thess 5:12), “He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect,” (1 Tim 3:4), “Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect,” (1 Tim 3:8), “In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect,” (1 Tim 3:11), and “All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect.” (1 Tim 6:1)

Paul thus sees certain people worthy of respect by nature of their position. Peter teaches a more general respecting of all persons and he extends this to non-Christians: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Pet 3:15) Respect for those older than you was, of course, built into the Law: “Each of you must respect his mother and father,” (Lev 19:3) and “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly.” (Lev 19:32)

If you have to rebuke a man older than yourself, he challenges Timothy, don’t resort to harshness but see him and respect him as if he were your father. Respect for the aged, we have just noted, goes right back to the Law.  Oh that it would be restored to the church today!  But this raises the question about how we should treat all people. We might say it seems an almost irrelevant question because surely we are called to love everyone, for example Jesus taught, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” (Mt 22:39 quoting Lev 19:18) and then, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (Jn 13:34) Surely, therefore, it is obvious how we should treat one another – with love. But what does that mean?

Well the apostle John spelt it own in practical terms: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (1 Jn 3:16,17) Of course Paul spelt it out in 1 Cor 13:4-8  “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”  So it seems fairly obvious.

So why does Paul say to Timothy, “Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity” (5:1,2)?   How do we treat brothers, mothers and sisters? (at least when the family is not dysfunctional!) Very simply, we are for them, we love them and we respect them and we think honourably about them. We would think nothing wrong about them and want nothing wrong for them. This is the bench mark that Paul sets for Timothy when he has to deal with men and women in the congregation and perhaps correct them. How would you correct your sister? Hopefully with love and care, wanting to maintain a good ongoing relationship. How would you correct your mother? Carefully! With gentleness and tenderness and not wanting to say or do anything to upset or hurt. How about correcting a brother? Surely with wisdom and in such a way as he might receive you and your words of correction, again knowing that you want to maintain a warm ongoing relationship with him. All of these things thus apply when the leader finds himself in a position when it is necessary to admonish and correct a brother or sister in Christ. See them as your literal brother, sister or mother and treat them accordingly. In that way they will get the best treatment from you. May that be how it is in church life. 

18. Fidelity & Testimony

Meditations in Deuteronomy : 18 :  Fidelity & Testimony

(Focus: Deut 6:13-25)

Deut 6:13-15 Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land.

Our verses today point to a major truth in Scripture which almost gets lost by law-keepers. This is very natural because, as we have pointed out a number of times, Deuteronomy is all about the law but that actually ISN’T its central focus. We might think it is the Land and all that is involved in taking it, but it isn’t! The central focus is having a relationship with the Lord. It is so easy to lose this fact in the midst of everything else.

God, the one and only true God, has called them into a relationship with Him at Sinai and all that follows is to be about how they live out that relationship. He has called them for a purpose – to reveal Him to the rest of the world and they will do that by the way they live. Remember we saw previously, this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” (4:6). The ‘this’ that is at the beginning of this quote is their obedience to God. That is what will reveal them and Him to the rest of the world.

Thus everything we have now is about the Lord and how they view Him and respond (or not) to Him. It starts with attitude: “Fear the LORD your God.” Hold Him in great respect. How will they show that? “Serve him only,” and if you’re not sure about what that means, “do not follow other gods, the gods of the people around you.” After all that they have been through with the Lord, this might seem an unnecessary instruction, yet it is vital.

It is all about their relationship with Him, and if they turn to idols that relationship will be abandoned. So Moses gives them a warning: “The LORD… is a jealous God.” Don’t see that negatively.  Jealousy can be a right emotion when there is a right relationship.  It means God wants to protect them from other ‘suitors’, false beliefs and gods who are no god, idols that are purely pieces of carved wood. The Lord wants to keep them from straying from The Truth, Himself.

In fact, if they do, His anger will be expressed and He will destroy them as a nation. If they are to be representing Him to the rest of the earth, if they turn to idols they will be representing something far from the truth and the world will be led astray and God will not have that! Israel are to stick to the Lord and put their trust in Him alone.

On various occasions in their desert travels they had grumbled against Him, as if He could not provide for them: “Do not test the LORD your God as you did at Massah.” (v.16.) You can see what happened there in Exodus 17.  Instead of asking Moses to ask the Lord to help them and provide water, they grumbled and complained and doubted God. They had yet to learn that they could utterly trust Him. So now, whenever they think about the laws of God, they should see them as God’s blessing for them and not something onerous. They should not doubt God.

So, he goes on, “Be sure to keep the commands of the LORD your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. Do what is right and good in the LORD’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers, thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the LORD said.” (6:17-19). There are the same ‘ingredients’ as before: a call to keep the laws, to enable God’s blessing to be upon them as they go in and take the Land.

Then comes a further ‘ingredient’ that we have noted before – a stipulation to pass them on to their children and make sure future generations know about them and keep them: “In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?” tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Before our eyes the LORD sent miraculous signs and wonders–great and terrible–upon Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land that he promised on oath to our forefathers. The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. And if we are careful to obey all this law before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.” (6:20-25)

When their children ask about the laws of Moses, the people are to refer them back to their origins, how God brought them out of Egypt and how He took them into the Promised Land. The purpose of the laws, he goes on, is to enable us to prosper. When we keep them, we will be living rightly in accordance with God’s design (righteously) and he will bless us and we will be blessed!

Similarly today, the way we live is to reveal the Lord: “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:16). May it be so!

 

34. Focus of Honour

Meditations on Jesus in John’s Gospel : 34 : Jesus, Focus of Honour

Jn 5:22-23      Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent him.

To honour someone is to respect or highly esteem them and more often than not we show it by some act of deference.  We honour people because of who they are and what they have achieved. In this sense God is to be honoured above all others. We express our recognition of this honour by worshipping Him.

When a country sends an ambassador, the way the host country treats the ambassador is an indication of what they feel about the sending country. If they honour the sending country, they will honour the ambassador. Giving honour is an indication of the high feelings you have about that person, and honouring their representative is exactly the same.

In our verses today Jesus starts by speaking about judgement and makes a strange sounding statement: the Father judges no one. Now that is strange because from early on in the Bible (Gen 18:25) God is seen as a Judge. So how it is now, that Jesus says that the Father judges no one? The answer comes in what follows: but has entrusted all judgment to the Son.  Individual judgement, says Jesus rests in him. Does that mean that he assesses each person on their works? No, for those who have heard of Jesus, their judgement depends on how they have responded to Jesus.

The basis of judgement today is upon how an individual responded to the news of Jesus. Even a child at Sunday School, or even ordinary school, who hears mention of Jesus is judged on their response to him. Even if his name is just used as a swear word people have heard his name in our society. Do they wonder about it, do they go searching to find out about this name, and having read of him, have their hearts been stirred? Their responses to the name and person of Jesus Christ reveals something about what is there on the inside. It is that response, or the lack of it, that judges each person.

In these verses judgement and honour are tightly bound together. If you hear about Jesus, go finding out about him and have your heart lifted by him, you are honouring him for who he is and you are assessed or judged on the basis of that honouring. Those who have hearts to seek God will, when they hear of Jesus, realise who he is and honour him in the same way that they honour God in their hearts, thus they honour the Son just as they honour the Father. Indeed if they don’t honour the Son that is an indication of the state of their heart and an indication of what they feel about God and so He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father. Jesus revealed the Father by his character, his nature and by everything that he did.

If we are too blind to see this, then it shows that our hearts are blind to God. The truth is that we judge ourselves. Someone has given the example of a person going to hear a piece of great music and, coming out, they criticise it and say how they didn’t enjoy it. This is not a criticism of the great music but a revelation that the person in question either doesn’t understand music or doesn’t have music in them. Similarly the man or woman who can read all about this wonderful person who walked the earth two thousand years ago, and remain cold towards him, reveals their inability to appreciate goodness and holiness and perfection. They judge themselves when they fail to honour the Son and the One who sent him.

31. Employers/Employees

Meditations in 1 Peter : 31:  Employees and Employers

1 Pet 2:18 Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.

For some of us, when we come across references to slavery in the Bible, and especially when it is in the New Testament, we immediately move into negative mode but that, I would suggest, simply indicates our lack of thought about history. It is legitimate to wonder why God didn’t eradicate slavery because the Bible speaks often of Him being a God of justice. The truth, I believe, comes in the recognition that God gave humanity free will and He never forces His will on us. Thus when we go back to the New Testament period we see that slavery is common in the world and that nowhere in that world are there any stirrings to suggest change. The Lord would have to wait centuries for the likes of William Wilberforce so the battle to remove slavery would be won. Yet, tragically, even now there are places in the world today where there are slaves.

Thus when we come to the Gospels or letters of the New Testament we find they simply accept the fact of slavery and live within it. Peter has been telling his readers to stand out in the world and live in such a way that they bring honour and glory to their Saviour. Now he turns to a group of people who might have every cause to feel negative about others. But no, he doesn’t let them get away with that; he demands that even slaves respect their masters.

Now this takes the teaching about respect that we considered yesterday, to an even higher level. It is a strong word: “Slaves submit yourselves to your masters with all respect.” Now when we think about this more fully in the light of the whole revelation of the Bible, we realise that within Jewish society at least, and according to the Law, slaves would be those who had sold themselves into slavery, probably to help the finances of their family. The Law also required slaves to be released at regular intervals, so slavery in that society was not the same as that which had been seen, say, in the southern states of the USA. This was more like a case of employment but the wages had been paid up front.

The quality of the life of the slave would depend on the master and theoretically if you sold yourself into a family for seven years you would only do it with a master with a good reputation. Yet Peter recognises the reality of living in a Fallen World, that there will be slave owners who are harsh. This was more likely in that period where Rome had subjugated all the nations of that area and so slavery in that context would not have the protections provided by the Law of Moses and in the area to which this letter would go, slave owners were mostly not Jews who respected the Law of Moses..

So, as much as we might wish to think otherwise (as it should have been in Israel in earlier centuries) now with Rome being the dominant force, slavery was a much tougher experience, which makes Peter’s teaching all the more amazing. If in the previous meditation we saw that we should value every person – whoever they are – as people made in the image of God with their own unique special features, this still applies to slave owners. They are still people! They are still people and so, if we have understood this teaching, they deserve respect. We don’t have to like the bad side of their lives but they are still people who perhaps God wants to reach.

This is purely an academic discussion until we place it in the context of modern life, of you being an employee who has a harsh or unkind or unfair employer. Now on occasion the labour market means that sometimes it is possible to change jobs if you don’t like your employer, but that isn’t always possible, and so we need to face this teaching. With God’s grace we have the opportunity to be completely different employees to the rest or the world. The truth is that if there is an employer, manager, supervisor etc. who is harsh, unkind etc. then the other employees will probably be thinking (and talking) badly of them as well.

You and I, with the grace of God, may wonder, why is it that this person is like they are? I remember a teacher at school who was known for being tetchy and harsh with discipline and it wasn’t until I was older and further up in the school that I came to hear that he suffered with constant pain. Understanding what that person is carrying may help us cope with them. Seeing them as someone that Jesus loves and would like to draw to himself – through us? – may also help us adjust our thinking and our behaviour in respect of that person. Causes and possibilities! What causes them to be like they are? Does my bad work add to their attitude? Maybe it’s me who need to change first. What possibility is there of God moving in this person’s life? What could be the outcome if I will be open to what the Lord might want to do in them?

When we suffer an unkind, insensitive or harsh person above us in employment, the temptation is to go down under it and to be negative about them. That is not the way of the New Testament. There is always hope of change and faith looks to the Lord for such change to come. Be a blessing at work. Change the world!

30. Respect and Honour

Meditations in 1 Peter : 30:  Respect and Honour

1 Pet 2:17 Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honour the king.

There is an ongoing flow in Peter’s train of thought. We might trace it back to verses 9 and 10 where he speaks of us being “a chosen people… a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him … now you are the people of God.” We are, in other words, a special people. Having identified us in this way, he wants us to stand out for good: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God.” (v.12). Expanding on how we are to act within society he said, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority” (v.13) so that “by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.” (v.15) and, on a negative note, he warns us “do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil.” (v.16). In all of these ways he wants us to be people of good standing in society so that we will glorify God through our lives.

Which then brings us to “show proper respect to everyone.” There’s been a lot about respect in the media in recent years, largely because of the feeling that it is something that is largely absent in modern society. So what does respect mean? Why does it permeate right the way through culture? Even the youth culture phrase, “Don’t you dis me,” (i.e. don’t you disrespect me) speaks of this requirement to be respected, something we would like but which seems is often missing.

Now when Peter speaks of showing ‘proper respect’ there is an implication that respect should be given to every person. Respect means holding a good and right attitude about others, accepting them and esteeming them for who they are. At the very basic level, every person is made in the image of God, and every person is loved by God. Yet God has made each of us a sovereign figure, we rule our lives (in some measure at least) and have the ability to make choices that affect our own lives. We are not mere animals and we are not robots. We are human beings with an amazing range of abilities. We hold multiple roles in life – e.g. daughter, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, employer etc. etc.  – and in what we do and how we live we reveal something of the wonder of God, whether we realise it or not.

If we were really able to see one another with God’s eyes, we look past the failures and foibles and go, “Wow!”  I really like the prophetic gift because it allows one to see past the exterior and see something of the reality of the person before you and their potential and we are all considerably more than a cursory glance reveals. Because of that, each and every person is worthy of our respect in some measure.

But then Peter continues with three further brief injunctions which will reveal to others what we are really like. First there is “Love the brotherhood of believers.” That is shorthand for having a good attitude towards all other Christians. Note ALL other Christians. Why? Because we are all part of one big family that has God as its Father and who have their origins in Him. We are indeed all brothers and sisters in this family. We are related by the Holy Spirit and therefore there should be love among us.

Second there is simply, “fear God.” That is shorthand for, hold on to a right and proper relationship with the Lord whereby we honour Him for His greatness and glory and give Him the worship that is due to Him. He may be our heavenly Father but don’t be over familiar or casual with Him. He is God Almighty, Creator of all things. ‘Fear Him’ means realise the awesome wonder of who He is!

The third and final injunction in this simple verse is, “honour the king.” There is a right balance here. Honouring God first and then the rulers He has put in place, the figurehead of human society. The head of state or government is a powerful person and a person who carries much responsibility and, Scripture testifies, is answerable to God for the way they exercise their rule at the head of society. This person also deserves our respect (and prayers).

As we respond in different ways as Peter indicates here – with love, fear, respect – we reveal that we are people who understand our place in the scheme of things and our responses indicate we understand those to whom we respond. Thus, more than any other people, we should reveal reality. That is what this is all about! This is a world with God at its head and, one way or another, everyone is related to Him. Christian or otherwise, they deserve our respect, our ‘esteeming them for who they are.”  May it be so!

46. Loving Unity

Ephesians Meditations No.46

Eph  5:29-33 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church– for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband

There are three facts of life that we, as Christians, would always do well to bear in mind, especially when we are faced with instructions in God’s word. The first fact is that God has designed this world – including us – and He knows best how we work. The second fact is that we are a sinful human race. Adam and Eve turned away from God and that tendency is inherent in every one of us since. Thus we tend to disregard God and do our own thing, living our own way. The third fact is that God has chosen Israel and then the Church to receive His Law or His instructions that reveal His ways for people to live in relationship with Him and according to His design so that what we call ‘blessing’ can follow. So, to recap and summarise it: God knows best, we don’t, and He’s given to us the ways to live so that blessing follows.

So, back in Ephesians, Paul has moved on in his letter to practical applications of the Christian life and has recently laid down the principle of submission to one another, which he has then applied to marriage. In the previous verses we saw his call to husbands to lay down their lives in sacrificial love for their wives, and in the way they care for their wives practically, will be an expression of how they care (love) for themselves – but that that is to be similar to the way Christ loves the church: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” (5:25-28) [sorry we need to recap that whole part to see it as an entire picture]

It is at this point that Paul elaborates on that but then swings back in to speak about the church again: “After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church– for we are members of his body.” He keeps on swinging back and forth between church and marriage, with the suggestion that there are similarities we need to consider. We are members of Christ’s body, the church and he, as our head, loves us because we are his body. If marriage is a unity with the husband as the head, he should surely love the ‘body’ part of the marriage, the wife, just as much.

As Paul thinks on this he reflects back to the Genesis mandate: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” which quotes Gen 2:24 and then he quickly adds, “This is a profound mystery,” which we might take to mean the mystery of oneness in marriage, but he immediately swings back to refer to the church: “but I am talking about Christ and the church.” What? Hold on!  But we thought you were talking about marriage?  He is but it is so interlinked with the picture of the church that the mystery of the one reflects on the mystery of the other. So what is the mystery of Christ and the church? Surely it is the wonder that the perfect Son of God, Spirit who took on a human body, can be united with a mass of human bodies that we call the church. It is that opposites can be joined to produce something even more wonderful. Thus in marriage the mystery is that two such incredibly different beings (and we are, and if you deny that you just don’t know male and female!) can be united into a oneness which, when it is working according to God’s design, is incredibly wonderful!

So he summarises his basic teaching: “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” The ‘however’ indicates that he is moving away from the big picture to the detail instructions again. The man is to express the same love to his wife as he does for himself. The wife is to respect (note the different word he now uses to clarify the teaching) the husband. Respect means to acknowledge the role and responsibility that God has bestowed on the man. As we’ve said previously, the buck stops with him. The Lord will be watching him to see that he brings death to self when necessary and lays down his life, his desires and wants, for the life and well-being of his wife (but never denying the truth). As a Christian he will pray for his wife and his family, recognising that their protection is his responsibility and it starts in the spiritual realm. He will not be casual as he takes the prayer structure that Jesus gave, that God’s name will be honoured in their family (Mt 6:9), for God’s will to be done in their family (Mt 6:10), that God will provide for their family (Mt 6:11), that right attitudes will be upheld in the family (Mt 6:12), and that sin and the work of the enemy will be kept from the family (Mt 6:13). Respect is earned, not claimed, and when the husband does these things, his headship will be seen for what it is, and he will be respected. Tough stuff! Men, are you doing it?