Second Reading: 1 Timothy 6:11-16

Okay, We're Christians. Now What?

How do you find the Christian lifestyle a struggle?

Popular Translation

11 Run away from sin, man of God. Instead, go after the right way to life. Pray and trust in God. Love God and other people. Be kind and patient with others. 12 Fight for the good things you believe in. Hold on to the eternal life God called you to. This is the life you said "yes" to in front of many Christians. 13 So, I give you this order in front of God who wants to save everyone, and in front of Jesus Christ who even told Pontius Pilate about God. 14 Keep your promise to God pure. Make sure no one can criticize you about it. Do this until our Lord Jesus Christ returns. 15 He will come at the right time to show God is true and blessed ruler. He is the King over all other kings, and the Lord over all other lords. 16 He is the only one who is immortal, for he lives in a light no one can approach. In fact, no man has seen it. And no one is able to see it. May honor and power be with God forever. Amen!

Literal Translation

11 But you, man of God, flee (from all vice). Pursue righteousness, piety, and faith, love, patient endurance, and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight for faith, grasp the eternal life into which you were called and having confessed the good confession before many witnesses. 13 I order [you] before God, the one saving everyone, and CHRIST JESUS, the (ONE) having witnessed the good confession to Pontius Pilate, 14 to keep your commission, stainless, above reproach, until the appearance of our LORD JESUS CHRIST, 15 which, at the definitive right time, will show the blessed and only (ruler) of power, the King of the (ones) being kings, and the Lord of the (ones) being lords, 16 the only (One) having immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, which no one among men saw, nor is able to see. To (him be) honor and eternal strength. Amen.

6:12b: "grasp the eternal life into which you were called and having confessed the good confession before many witnesses" The author may have used this phrase to remind Timothy of his baptism. The language and tone of 2 Timothy seem imply a creedal formula was pronounced by the neophyte before the community at the baptismal ceremony. See 6:13-16 for such an implied formula.

6:14 "your commission" is literally "your command." The author implied Timothy received his command with his commission. There is some dispute among scholars whether the commission came from Timothy's baptism or his ordination as a presbyter.

Christianity has a social and a spiritual component (two aspects among many). The social component has behavioral demands. The spiritual component has relational demands. Push the social too far, and Christianity becomes a purely cultural phenomena. Sundays become a time to socialize with church friends and receive "warm fuzzies" from the pulpit. Push the spiritual component too far, and Christianity loses its distinctly communal nature. Sundays become a time exclusively for "me and Jesus." In either extreme, components are replaced with compartments, as if there is a separation between everyday ethics and spirituality. My time with others and my time with God are distinct and never, ever intersect.

The author of 1 Timothy (Paul?) did not accept, nor even conceive of such compartmentalization. In fact, he insisted that the responsibilities of baptism included social and spiritual components, charity and faith. Such a mix of spirituality and ethics was a sure sign the Christian had a firm grasp on grace, that which the follower of Jesus was called to and confessed to. God's gift was the standard to which the believer aspired, and was the motivation toward the standard. The author used an athletic metaphor (fighting the good fight) to emphasize the Christian lifestyle as struggle in grace, for grace.

What is the end game of that fight? Verses 6:13-16 express the goal in a creedal formula. The living God was active in the salvation for all. And Jesus Christ, whose trial and death was a witness to the Roman Empire (symbolized by Pontius Pilate), would return in glory to reveal his Father as the "King of kings and Lord of lords" (titles that Rome insisted belonged to the Emperor). In a cultural and political atmosphere that demanded loyalty to the Caesar, the author encouraged Timothy to make his spiritual commitment as ethically pure as possible, so his evangelization could be effective. How could a follower convince an outsider the Christ was more important than the Emperor? Live a highly moral lifestyle as a way to live what is believed.

Okay. We're Christians. Now what? The author gave us the answer. Live faith without reproach. Love others as a way to evangelize. Do the right as a signpost to the Kingdom.

How do you measure up to the challenge laid out in 1 Timothy 6? How can you pray for God's help to persevere living the challenge?