Season After Pentecost: The Epistle Passage – Reading another’s letter

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,
To Timothy, my beloved child:
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” (II Timothy 1:1 -2)

I want to imagine that scene when Timothy opens the second letter that Paul sent him. I wonder if he sat down to read it, or read it as soon as it was delivered to his hand. Was he looking for some specific news, or expecting some teaching? Was he anxious about what Paul would say, or secure in knowing what Paul thought of him? Did he read and re-read it? Did he share it with friends and family who were close by, or did he keep it to himself? What was it like to receive a letter from Paul, the great missionary for God?

I am grateful to God—whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did—when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.” (Verses 3 – 7)

Encouragement, and a reminder of the faith that went before and was an example. And a reminder and a re-calling of the faith that was bestowed in Timothy, the reader. And expressions of love and tenderness. Did Timothy wipe away, remembering how dear Paul was to him? Or did he chuckle at the reminder of how Paul never passed up an opportunity to preach, teach, and exhort?

Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (Verses 8 – 10)

Yes, it did not take Paul long into the letter to get to the teaching and preaching mode. Regardless of whether Timothy was strong in his faith, as Paul was, or young in the faith and still maturing – Paul would not pass up a chance to exhort and testify to the Lord Jesus Christ.

For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.” (Verses 11 -14)

Did Timothy write back to Paul? Scripture does not tell us. And if Timothy did, evidence is not obvious and evident. But then what could one say in return? Witness and teach to Paul? Match theology to Paul’s theology? How does one answer back to such a force of God? Can one? Or perhaps Timothy wrote back to Paul as a son writes to a father, or a mentee to a mentor? Again, I do not know of such letters.

We read these epistles that have became holy scripture in a variety of ways. Let us remember though, they started as a letter from one unique individual to another. We have taken them and broaden them, polishing off the edges that are unique to the correspondents and then stretch them to fit our lives and our world. I am not saying we are wrong to do so, but remember we are reading correspondence that at it’s conception was never meant for anyone other than the addressee. This may not be as significant in the two letters to Timothy, but we must be mindful of it while reading the other epistles. And let us remember too, the tenderness that Paul exhibits and allow that to temper the hard edges of these letters. Just as I hope, beloved reader, you read the tenderness I feel towards you! Shalom!

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About Carole Boshart

I have two blogs on WordPress. "A Simple Desire" which is based on the daily "Sips of Scripture" published and sent out by Third Way Cafe. "Pondering From the Pacific" is based on my reflections on the world - sometimes religious/spiritual, and sometimes not so much.

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