Sunday, 25 September 2016

Global Mission Purpose - 1 Timothy 2

Chapter 2 calls for urgent action: praying for people, the community, those in power. In contrast to anyone who might say that Christians should retreat into a holiness club, Paul picks up on roots expressed in Jeremiah 29:7 and says get praying and get out there!

This is a big thing for us a church, so we prioritise our community engagement and seek the peace of the area in which we live. God wants all to be saved (v4), and so our scope is inclusive and diverse - this is the global mission purpose of God we have seen so many times.

Yet as individuals praying for the whole world it can easily feel like we are praying for no-one. A good discipline is to seek which specific people God may lay on your heart, hence the key question:

Key Qn: [OUT] Who are you called to pray for?
Challenge: Choose 3 names and then persist in praying for them

Paul continues in verse 5 & 6 with the good news in a mini-format: One God, one saviour who is Jesus, God come as a human. This Jesus gave his life for us. This is re-stating the trustworthy saying from last time - again Paul likes to sharply focus on Jesus as the real deal. Paul's role, Timothy's role ... and our role is to announce this Jesus.

But with Jesus comes a government health warning! Not governments warning us the public, but a warning to governments that this Jesus is for the whole world and will transform society. The good news of Jesus is positively disruptive for culture ... which means it may occasionally collide with the status quo.

Verse 8 onwards is a culture-clash: once in Christ we don't need success in our job, a slim dress size, latest fashion, Iphones and gadgets to stand out. The world will happily hook us in to all these, but our true identity can be found in Christ giving us a quiet confidence in Him. Note that the 'also' or 'likewise' in verse 9 is a Greek word that acts like a short-circuit, fusing the two sections together. This means Paul is saying that whatever applies to the men also applies to the women and vice versa.

The disruption goes further in verse 11, although English translations often don't convey the full force of Paul's language. He is writing 'Let women learn and be educated' as a command - disruptive words in an age where the chances of an average woman getting any education were basically zero!

Now if you disrupt culture you will create problems: you can hit opposition (e.g. Paul wrote this from prison), or people can simply get the wrong idea. Remember the key theme of these letters is combating people who are getting it wrong and leading away from Jesus and the good news. Add to that the 'Ephesus Problem' of the local Artemis female cult (huge statue, female god, female priests ...) and it is easy to see how people could confuse the positive disruption brought by the gospel and jump to false conclusions: 'Is this good news really about female dominance?'

So Paul again rehearses the real deal of Jesus. This is not simply reversing a status quo, swapping out male dominance for female. No, this is male and female created in God's image released to follow Jesus, to live out their identity and calling in Christ. That is what we see Jesus doing in the gospels, allowing women to be disciples (learners) and commissioning them also to tell the good news. It is also what we see Paul doing through Acts and his letters, with female co-workers, doubtless acting in leadership roles.

If we are to live more simply, and pray for people each with our 3 names, where might we also be positively disrupting culture? Perhaps the curious verse 15 might give an example! Paul in writing about women and child-bearing is not saying that there are magic saving-powers in giving birth, nor is he talking about safety through the process. He might be referring to the birth of Jesus, which makes salvation possible for all of us. Yet he also might be talking again of simple living with our identity and life in Christ - we don't have to be anyone in particular or in a special role to be saved, but simply follow Christ. In this case 'child-bearing' is translated as 'child-rearing', and affirms the importance of parenting as a vocation. In a culture like ours, that wants to convince everyone that you have to get a paid job to be of any value, it is now becoming positively disruptive to live more simply and be a dad or a mother who invests in their children ... a role that has huge value to society as a whole.

Timothy along with Paul were prepared to pray for any and everyone, to discover God's desire that all should be saved. That brings with it change in the community, a positive disruption. Will we be part of that too?

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