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July 30

1 Timothy 5:1-2

1 Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, and with all propriety, the younger women as sisters. — 1 Timothy 5:1-2

Acting On God’s Love

by Michael Henry

Here the apostle Paul instructs Timothy—and through him others, including ministers and other believers—on how to reprove or rebuke in a positive way. Certainly ministers are reprovers by office. While not exactly pleasant, it is a part of their calling. As 2 Timothy 4:2 tells us, they are to preach the word, to reprove and to rebuke. A discerning difference, though, is to be made in this reproof according to the age, character, and other circumstances of the person being corrected. 

So the instruction from verse 1 is to be gentle and loving when rebuking elders—elders in age or elders by office. The dignity of their years and place must be respected, and they must not be rebuked sharply or harshly. Paul admonishes Timothy to treat them as one would a father or a mother—loving in approach and pure in motive. Not only is this appropriate, but it is the likeliest way to eventually win them over.

Younger persons, we are then told, must be rebuked as we would our brothers or sisters—with love and tenderness and not in a harsh, accusatory or demeaning manner. This way we make the best of them, or perhaps just as important, we make the best of ourselves by heeding Paul’s instructions. Humility, even at times meekness, should be our guide in correcting those in need of it. If Timothy was in need of such an admonition as this, how much more are we?

Certainly the church has its seams, created naturally by age differences, gender differences, economic differences, ethnic differences, and so on. These seams, where these various groups come together, often show visible signs of discomfort or even stress. It falls to Christian leaders, and beyond that, to each of us as believers, to push across these lines from time to time in order to minister and witness effectively.

But, Paul instructs, crossing these lines requires sensitivity, care and respect. Not only here in these verses from 1 Timothy do we learn this, but elsewhere and more broadly in Romans 12: 9-10, where we are told that our love for others must be sincere and our devotion to each other must be through brotherly love.

Therefore we must carry out the task of ministry through correcting, admonishing, encouraging and comforting. This kind of ministry values the relationship between believers far above any need to assert or prove lines of authority. It is funneled through our humble spirits as true believers, thereby strengthening the unity of the church.

Praxis

  1. How can we relate to others based on fatherly or brotherly love if we do not feel that in our own family relationships?
  2. How can a drastic, perhaps life-altering action (e.g. terminating someone’s job) be done in love?