Today’s reading is from 1 Timothy 5.
Our faith as Christians is about more than our beliefs. It is a gift from God that transforms us, including the way that we think about and act toward other people. Here in 1 Timothy 5, Paul spelled out some of the ways in which Christians should regard and act toward other Christians who are of different from us are in age, sex, and social status.
Our society thrives on segmenting the population by categories like age, income, race, sex (at least, for now), and interest areas. It makes it easier to target people and market specific products to them if a person can be clustered into a category and--especially--if their tastes can be influenced. Pickup trucks, for example, are sold to industries and contractors who find them useful for work. But they are also marketed to young(ish) men who live in the suburbs (see here). I’m sure they also know that these men watch sports, which sports are most popular among them, what kind of music they like, and other details like that.
When society is segmented like this, it creates peer pressure within that segment to conform. The more a person conforms to what is “normal” his or her demographic, the more that person differs from people in other demographics. And, the more that people-groups differ from other people-groups, the more distrust and even disdain can exist between these groups.
All of this is reflected in the American church. Instead of seeing churches that are multi-generational, multi-racial, multi-economical (what? I couldn’t think of a word for diverse in income), we have white churches, black churches, cowboy churches, hipster churches, churches for baby boomers, and on and on (and on). Our church is no exception to this although I wish we were and I’d like to get there someday, somehow. That’s because of passages like the one here in 1 Timothy 5. Instead of looking down on older men, they should be treated like fathers in the church, according to verse 1. Instead of viewing younger men as slackers, they should be treated like brothers. Older women in the church should be valued like we value our mothers and younger women as sisters. Widows shouldn’t be relegated to the sidelines; they should be “caring for their own family” (v. 4) and be cared for by God’s people when they are “really in need.”
The church has paid a high price for this kind segmentation. The transfer of knowledge and wisdom from generation to generation gets lost when all the baby-boomers go to one church an all the hipsters go to their own. Instead of learning to love others of a different race or income level, we ignore or even distrust them because of their differences.
I don’t know any way to solve this other than sacrificial love from the spiritually mature. If you love Jesus, make it your goal to befriend some people who are as different from you as possible. Learn how to listen to their needs and problems and do what you can to serve them.
If you are a teen or young adult reading this, please know that middle-age, older, and even--especially--elderly people could help you grow in your faith and avoid some of the mistakes that we’ve made. Give us a chance; we’d love to encourage you and disciple you if you’re open to it. Maybe one way to practice this is for you to join one of our small groups and let us talk with you and get to know you. Your life as a Christian will be enriched for it.