Timothy is a familiar Biblical personality to us. But we tend to see the relationship Timothy had with Paul in one direction. We think of Timothy as the youthful, dependent, understudy of Paul and Paul as the wise, old sage bringing Timothy along. But I believe a closer look at the letters Paul wrote to Timothy reveals a two-way relationship of mutuality.
These letters tell of a younger Timothy needing to rely on the spiritual strength of his mentor as Timothy apparently struggled with anxiety and uncertainty over his ability to courageously live the Christian life and to lead the church under his care (I Timothy 4:12; II Timothy 1:6-12,
II Timothy 3:10-17). Paul instructs him in how to appoint church leaders, how to address false teachers, how to handle the Scripture, how to preach, how to lead. Paul strengthened Timothy’s resolve when his knees got weak and repeatedly cheered him on in the struggle of the faith.
(I Timothy 1:18-20; 6:12-16; II Timothy 1:6-12; 2:1-5).
But these letters also tell of an older Paul in need of the support of his younger companion as with age he neared the finish line of his race (II Timothy 4:6-8). Paul was feeling the loneliness and loss from those who abandoned him. Not all who began the race with him finished the course (II Timothy 1:15; 4:10; 4:13-16). And in II Timothy there is a subtle but significant shift of emphasis in appealing for companionship, “join with me in suffering for the gospel,” (1:8); “suffer hardship with me.” (2:3); “Only Luke is with me, bring Mark.” (4:11); “make every effort to come.” (4:21).
Especially in times like these, we must reaffirm our intergenerational need for one another.
Our older generation needs the support of the younger generation – in the form of acts of care and concern for their well-being. Seeing the younger generation confess their faith and model discipleship will serve as a practical way for our older saints to see the seeds of faith they have sown over the years bearing fruit in the next generation.
Our younger generation needs the spiritual strength of the older generation - the prayers, the presence, and the stabilizing influence of those who are further down the road; to be that great cloud of witnesses cheering them on to run the race before us (Hebrews 12:1). For some of you, your careers are accomplished, your families are raised. You have returned home from your winter get-ways. Your experiences from life and lessons learned in your faith have become an anchor, “for such a time as this!” Don’t hide out. You are needed! Now more than ever a phone call to pray with a young family, or to check in with a youth, a note in the mail with a blessing, would be as a message from God.
What a gift of God we are to each other - one generation to another! May we hear the call to share this gift of mutuality in life-giving ways.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, knit our hearts and minds together in Spirit and in purpose.