Jumping To Conclusions
Stereotyping. Let’s face it, we all do this. We stereotype people, putting them into a box based on such inconsequential things as race or sex, the clothes they wear, the languages they speak, or the customs they follow. These are mere accidental differences that do nothing to diminish the permanent nature that we all share, that is, our humanity. Because we so readily judge by surface things, we are often guilty of denying the common humanity we share with our fellow human beings. When we do this we are not acting in accord with the will of God.
Paul knows this tendency and counsels Timothy in ways to counteract it from the Christian perspective. In this case it seems that there has been some challenge to Timothy because of his “youth,” or because he is still, “new” to that faith. Some may have thought that Timothy was not worthy of the leadership role he had been given. Paul tells Timothy not to pay attention to this, but rather, to convert those who are prejudiced by “[setting] an example for believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” Paul is expressing an old wisdom here: Actions speak louder than words. We are not to let ourselves be shaped by the prejudices of others, rather we are to change the hearts and minds of those who are prejudiced against us, by our mature, moral and loving actions. And Paul is specific as to what actions we need to practice.
We are to show good example by our speech. We are to answer ignorance with patience, with words of kindness. We are to remove rough or coarse words from our speech. We are to always speak truthfully, never to lie. Our conduct should always be marked by compassion and genuine service. We should be examples of generosity. We should always be seen to act justly toward all others. We are to be recognized by our love for one another and for those who have been marginalized in any way. In a world like ours, where human dignity is diminished and abused by verbal and visual sexual innuendo and implications in every aspect of commercialism, and entertainment, we are to stand out from the crowd by our purity, in the way we treat ourselves and in the way we respect the innate and inalienable human dignity of others. It is these forms of conduct that will bring others to God. And God is the only source of the peace and joy we all desire in the silent centers of our souls. Remember that it was Jesus who told us, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
Lord, strengthen us in our efforts to learn to conduct ourselves as good and faithful Christians. Guide us by your Holy Spirit in the ways of righteousness, justice and peace. Rid us of any prejudices we might have, so that we might be able to see the face of Jesus in all those we encounter in our daily lives. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen!
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