Bible study is the metal that forges a Christian.
Scripture & Devotion: Scriptural focus: 1 Timothy 5:1-2, 8
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… If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
We are family
There is an old saying, “Charity begins at home.” It reminds us that it is just as important to show kindness, respect, and compassion to family members as it is to extend these outward to others in the community. Still, many of us find it easier to demonstrate God’s love to those outside our inner circle than within our families, with whom we may have a troublesome history or who might be aware of all our faults and shortcomings.
In the fifth chapter of 1 Timothy, the apostle Paul writes at length about the expectations of those in the church with regard to the treatment of people of both genders and at differing stages of life, especially of widows who lack families. But he is absolutely clear that it is, first and foremost, the responsibility of each family to provide for their own relatives in order to make it possible for the church to take care of those who actually have no other source of help.
In Paul’s day, there were not many social service providers or programs dedicated to meeting the needs of the destitute and unconnected. An elderly woman with no family would likely as not end up living on the street with no one to provide for even her basic requirements for food and shelter, let alone the need for companionship and a sense of belonging. From the story of the widow Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth in the Old Testament, we know that Ruth did the uncommon thing in choosing to remain with her mother-in-law rather than return to her own people after the men in the family had passed away. Women such as these were in dire straits unless they were fortunate enough to come under the protection of a “kinsman redeemer,” a male relative, sometimes even a distant one, who would undertake to provide for them.
But Paul’s comments indicate that something like the role of kinsman redeemer belongs to all of us in the church. It is our responsibility to take care of our family members and extend the Lord’s loving kindness to them, no matter what painful past experiences we might have had, notwithstanding childhood jealousies, feelings of resentment, or whether or not we like their personalities. Of course, there is nothing wrong in participating in service opportunities, church-based or otherwise, that minister to strangers in the community, but if we examine our hearts, we will see that we sometimes find this easier than extending grace to family members with whom we may have a history of unpleasantness.
There is no more powerful witness than true forgiveness. Today, let us take steps toward healing old wounds that may have left scars on our psyche, old resentments that have been festering for years, old hurts that we need to move beyond so that we can better minister to others. If a family member has been offended by something we have done or said (even without meaning to), we can seek out that person and apologize. If we perceive ourselves as having been hurt by a family member, we can attempt to re-establish a positive contact. A “thinking of you” card in the mail, flowers left on the porch, a phone call, or an unexpected pizza delivery can be a first step toward restoration of a relationship that has the power to enrich the lives of everyone concerned. “Feed my lambs,” Jesus said to Peter. Sometimes we need reminding about the needs of the lambs within our own fold.
We acknowledge that it is sometimes easier to look "out" and see where we should go or what we should do, but that perhaps what You're calling us to is to look "in" to our family, our friends, our neighborhood to see where we can reflect the compassion and grace of Jesus. Help us to ask and extend forgiveness wherever you call us to do that. Give us the grace to "go first," to be the bigger person. Thank You that You provide everything we need for life and godliness.