Run away from adolescent cravings. Instead, pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace together with those who confess the Lord with a clean heart. Avoid foolish and thoughtless discussions, since you know that they produce conflicts. God’s slave shouldn’t be argumentative but should be kind toward all people, able to teach, patient, and should correct opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will change their mind and give them a knowledge of the truth. They may come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap that holds them captive to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:22-26 (CEB)
As I was scrolling through some news articles this morning, a headline in the NYT caught my eye: “A Rabbis Enduring Sermon on Living Your Last Five Minutes“. The article reflected on Rabbi Kenneth Berger’s Yom Kippur sermon thirty years ago regarding the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle. In this sermon, Rabbi Berger focused on the five minutes the Challenger crew lived between the explosion of the shuttle and the crash into the Atlantic ocean. Berger states:
“That scene still haunts me…The explosion and then five minutes. If only I… If only I… And then the capsule hits the water, it’s all over. Then you realize it’s all the same — five minutes, five days, 50 years. It’s all the same, for it’s over before we realize.
“‘If only I knew’ — yes, my friends, it may be the last time. ‘If only I realized’ — yes, stop, appreciate the blessings you have. ‘If only I could’ — you still can, you’ve got today.”
Less than three years later, Rabbi Berger and his wife were killed in a plane crash. Two of their three children were traveling with them, and both survived. They recalled, in those final moments, their father taking their hands and offering words of reassurance.
The book of 2 Timothy records one of Paul’s final letters to his adopted son. Paul is imprisoned in Rome. His trial is over, and he is awaiting his execution. Paul knows his earthly journey is coming to an end. He tells Timothy that he is being “poured out like a drink offering”. Alone, chained, facing the end…Paul longs to see Timothy once more.
You see, even though Paul knows the end is near, he understands that there is still work to do. Paul not only intends to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ until his final breath, he wants to make sure that after he is gone the gospel continues to be spread.
And so, Paul calls on Timothy. This letter is not a memoir, a reflection of a life lived in ministry. Rather, it is a commission. It is a sending forth of Timothy to continue the race. Paul reminds Timothy of the gospel message and charges him with the task of both sharing that message and training up new leaders. Paul understands that the church’s foundation is not built on him, but on Jesus Christ.
To that end, Paul gives Timothy some words of advice on Christian living.
- Don’t get caught up in things that pull you away from Christ.
- Focus on doing the right thing, sharing God’s love and living peacefully with others.
- Be part of a community of true believers.
- Don’t get into arguments and conflicts that result in divisions rather than strengthening the unity of the church.
- Instruct others with kindness and patience.
- Be humble and don’t judge others; rather, try and lead them to the truth in Jesus Christ.
In our current “selfie” culture driven by consumerism, competition and the need to be right, Paul’s final words to Timothy are a salient reminder of who we, as Jesus followers, are called to be.
No one knows the number of their days here on earth. But I think, if we take Paul’s final instructions to heart, we too can leave a legacy of faith.
Blessings and Peace,