Charge Them Before God
We always have to be reminded. It is just the nature of being human and being ʺbusyʺ with the everyday demands of life. Sometimes we just get so caught up in ʺwhat has to be done,ʺ that we can lose sight of the the real meaning of life. Well, in this passage, Paul is reminding Timothy, and us, that our petty concerns are often not what they purport to be. He writes:
ʺThis saying is trustworthy: If we have died with him we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us. If we are unfaithful he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.
Remind people of these things and charge them before God to stop disputing about words. This serves no useful purpose since it harms those who listen. Be eager to present yourself as acceptable to God, a workman who causes no disgrace, imparting the word of truth without deviation.ʺ (2 Timothy 2: 11-15)
How many times have we been caught up in arguments over words and lost site of their meaning altogether because ʺwinningʺ the argument became more important? How many times have we ostracized someone, or a whole group, over a disagreement on words? In doing so we have destroyed community, or a personal relationship for a mere word. We have forgotten our larger duties to love and to forgive, to be patient with and to heal divisions. When our own pride becomes the driving force in such things, everyone loses.
God’s desire for us is much more simple in one sense, and much more difficult in another. He wants us to understand that our chief duty is to be humble workmen in his service. He wants us to realize the truth that actions really do speak louder than words. We also need to be listening to the meaning of the words. We need to be listening for what is alike in them more than what is unalike. This is the humble stance.
We have the word of God. We all read it in translation, of course. Most of us do not read Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. We read the translations that we have been accustomed to, or we read it in our own different languages, but the different translations do not change the meaning of the truth that is the word of God. This is certainly true for translations in English. There is no other language in the world that has as large a vocabulary as English. That is because it has borrowed words from countless other languages and we, like all human beings, create new words every day and this has given the English language a huge treasury of synonyms, words that have the same, or nearly the same meaning as another in the same language. Because of this we English speakers can say the same thing in a dozen different ways. What we are always after, though, is not the word, but the meaning behind the word. God’s truth is indestructible. If we become familiar with God’s word and its intent, we will know when it is being abused or distorted. When we see that happening, there is no point in arguing with the one who is distorting it, rather, we should respond by living the truth of the word of God with our own lives. That will be our greatest argument.
What God wants of us, then, is to LIVE the word, not to argue over it. People will sooner recognize the truth of God’s word if they see us living it, rather than arguing over minutiae like medieval scholastics. Let us, then, study and come to know and to believe in the word of God well enough to simply live it in every action of our lives. Then we will ʺpresent ourselves as acceptable before God, as workers who cause no disgrace, who impart the word of truth without deviation.ʺ Let it be so. Amen.