Friday, August 10, 2012

Day 71: Paul's letter to his "Son"

Up until now, Paul's letters have been to congregations, religious communities, but today's letters (and others) are written to individuals, in this case Timothy.  Since we have been reading in the New Testament, we know a little about Timothy.  He was a young man who had a Jewish mother and a Greek father, he traveled with Paul, and was much beloved by him.

Now I'm going to tell you something that might seem a little confusing:  some scholars don't think that Paul wrote this letter.

They believe this because of some of the subjects Paul discusses:  the particular church controversies he mentions and the qualifications for bishops, for example.  And may I suggest that if this is Paul, the tone of the letter is much more staid and (ahem) establishment-sounding than some of the earlier letters that we read.  There's not as much passion in this letter, although there's still a concern for good order and Truth.

Then there's the pronouncements regarding women's leadership in chapter two.  In Galatians, Paul states that "in Christ there is no male or female," in 1 Timothy he writes that a "wife" or a "woman" should learn quietly in complete submission.  (As well, we are not to wear elaborate hairstyles, or gold, pearls or expensive clothes.)  What are we to make of this? 

As a woman, I'm wondering why some churches adhere so strongly to the position that women are to remain silent in the church, but not to the other requirements that women should not wear jewelry or expensive clothes.  Because it seems to me that both of the things that Paul is concerned about have to do with the culture of the time, and what sort of behavior would adversely affect the Christian community and its witness. 

I can't help but noticing that most of this part of the letter (we'll see what develops tomorrow) deals with how to manage the household of faith:  husband and wives, bishops and pastors, servants and masters.  Yet I'm drawn to the simple statement of faith in chapter 1, which is worth the weight of the whole letter, "Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners."  Paul goes on to say that he's the biggest sinner of all -- and his whole life is an object lesson of God's mercy.

There's something about this sentence that makes me smile. 

Our whole lives an object lesson of God's mercy.  Maybe that's enough for me.

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