Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Youthful Passions

What are the main sins of youth? Alcohol? Internet pornography? Flirting? Ambition? Self-centredness? As Paul writes to Timothy he has something else in mind that Timothy must flee to be a faithful minister of Christ. "Youthful passions".

2 Timothy 2:20-26.

Until earlier this month I'd presumed that the warning for Timothy to flee youthful passions meant that he should steer clear of sexual immorality - which is an issue in our day, and may well have been then.

Then Mo flagged something up at Relay 1 that suggests otherwise. Paul says, have nothing to do with foolish and ignorant quarrels... because
...the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his oopponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil...
. Similar words are in view earlier as Timothy is instructed to be an unashamed workman, free from quarrelling.

As Mo said (or at least the way I noted it):
"...youthful immaturity engages us in arguments, turning into quarrels. The fix everything mentality... is an evil desire of youth..."
Could it be that what Paul has in mind is the youthful passion to pick theological fights? The stuff of blogwars and church splits? The fight-club mentality that feeds of hitting out and spilling blood? The way of thinking that doesn't care for the hearts, minds or souls of God's people but would rather score points.

What is the alternative? Kind and patient teaching. Gentle correction. A trust in the sovereign power of God to change hearts and minds. Trust that repentance (total change of heart and mind) is a gift from God. Trust that God reveals himself. This approach lacks the thrill of the chase and the adrenalin of war. But, this approach is restorative and loves God and his people.

Youthful passions look godly - they pursue truth with a passion. But they love to pick fights. They love to cross t's and dot i's. And they'd love to fix everything immediately. When youthful passions are put aside some battles can be avoid, some fights delayed.

"What Paul is warning Timothy about is the seductiveness of endless theological speculation! The tendency of the young, in both the enthusiasm of their emerging faith and of being over-impressed with their own theological capacities, is to become engaged in endless theological speculation. After all, it is in college that one engages in countless bull-sessions, not when one is in his fifties or sixties. In one sense, this is good – because these endless arguments both test and hone our faith. But it can also lead to endless speculation, worrying with words, and theological sophistry (after all, the word “sophomore” literally means “wise fool”). Paul calls this “youthful passions” (v. 22) – not referring to sensual desires but to one’s fascination with hearing his own voice parsing the Christian faith!" source
And as Stott says in his BST on 2 Timothy:
"The combination of unbiblical speculations and uncharitable polemics has done great damage to the cause of Christ"
It is not that all controversy is to be avoided. Paul makes frequent confrontation of error. But, he does not revel in responding to error. Nor does he take joy declaring people apostate. Such declarations are a last resort. Rather his manner is to plead for gospel with those he writes to. That is his concern. Galatians is a letter that need not have been written. Paul could simply have abandoned them to their folly. Instead he writes with heart and careful argument to plead with them to return to the Cross of Christ and to the freedom that is theirs by it. Such is his concern for God's people and God's gospel.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for these thoughts. They tie up also with what The Thinklings have been writing about manhood. It is sad that certain well-known pastors insist on creating controversy about what should be considered secondary matters by listing them as "non-negotiables of the faith". This serves only to create divisions in the body of Christ as well as stumbling blocks to the world outside.