God’s People, part 259: Timothy

Read Acts 16:1-5

“Timothy, please come as soon as you can.”  (2 Timothy 4:9, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Part 259: Timothy. Timothy is one of the names that come up a lot when it comes to Paul. In fact, there are two letters in the New Testament that are addressed to him and, therefore, bear his name. He is known as a faithful companion and fellow missionary of Pauls, and someone Paul put a lot of trust in. Most who know of Timothy, probably never gave him or how he came to be with Paul much thought.

In Acts 16:1-5, we are told that Paul first met Timothy in Lystra, which is modern day Turkey. We are also told that Timothy’s mother was Jewish; however, his father was Greek. So, Timothy grew up in an interfaith household and he was never circumcised. He was well liked the believers in Lystra and Iconium (modern day Konya, Turkey).

Now, let me pause here for a moment. As has been previously written in this series, Paul fought for Gentile inclusion and he was adamant about not forcing Gentiles to get circumcised. An entire council was called on it in Jerusalem and the Apostles all eventually agreed with Paul, according to Luke in Acts. They even sent Paul, Barsabbas, and Silas to read a letter rebuking those who were opposing Paul and letting the churches know where they stood as Apostles.

Yet, here in Acts 16:1-5, we not only see that Timothy was uncircumcised, but that Paul had him circumcised out of deference to the Jews in the area. Why would Paul do this? This seems to be out of character for him, does it not? Why would Paul go against everything he just fought for and won.

It is here that we see something that is almost completely lost in modern Christianity. COMPROMISE. For Paul, everything came down to LOVE. That is obvious in 1 Corinthians 13 and here we get a glimpse of the application of Paul’s theology. In 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote:

“When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:20-22, NLT)

So, it becomes clear that Paul had Timothy circumcised so that the Jewish believers would accept Timothy as one of their own and would send him with Paul with a blessing. To Paul, it did not matter whether Timothy was circumcised or not, but it did matter to not cause others to stumble or to cause unnecessary division. If Timothy was serious about journeying with Paul, he would have to concede this as a compromise of LOVE.

Of course, we know that he did. Timothy had the maturity to not only understand Paul’s reasoning, but to see it through. Timothy proved to be a most faithful servant and Apostle. He was young, but filled with God’s wisdom and Paul advised him to never allow someone to question his authority because of his age. What’s more, Timothy is listed as the co-author of 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon. Paul wrote about Timothy to the Philippians saying, “I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare”  (2:20, NLT).

So, what can we pull from Timothy’s life, ministry and example. In this age of extremes and proud stubborness, I think it is important that we not only acknowledge Timothy’s ability to find the balance between loving compromise and bold resoluteness in the Gospel message. Let us be challenged to do what we must to win whoever we can for Jesus Christ. If that means we need to make some sacrifices and compromises, than amen! So be it; however, let us, like Timothy, never compromise the Gospel message or our role in spreading it.

“Virtue knows that it is impossible to get on without compromise, and tunes herself, as it were, a trifle sharp to allow for an inevitable fall in playing.” – Samuel Butler

Lord, keep me resolute in my faith; however, open my heart to holy and loving compromise so that I do not become a stumbling block to others seek you out. Amen.

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