Scripture Reading: 1 Timothy 2:1-15, Deuteronomy 6:4, John 10:14-18, 2 Peter 3:14-16
Just as we’ve all been doing for the past few millennia, I skipped ahead this morning. I glanced at 1 Timothy 2 and read the last few verses and my stomach sunk. This chapter has been hotly debated by theologians far more versed than I in the original languages, in historical context, and in all kinds of study. How can I possibly add to the conversation?
To write about 1 Timothy 2 for a community of women who will all have some sort of pain or story or lens through which they read this chapter feels too daunting for me. But then my eyes catch the last words of it: “continue in faith, love, and holiness, with good sense” (v. 15). What does it mean, first, for me to honor and obey these words before I think of communicating them to others? Chiefly it means to exercise self-control and read from the beginning. My eyes moved back up the page to these words:
“First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (vv. 1-4).
“First of all, then… ”
There is an order to these words. Paul wants to communicate something to Timothy: that all people in all places need “petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings” made on their behalf, and in doing so it leads to a “tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (v. 1). It gives dignity to all people everywhere when we pray for them, thank God for them, and intercede on their behalf.
It seems to me the enemy’s best ploy is to steal our dignity, our quietness, and our peace by disordering our reading. Enticing us to lack self-control and skip passages, cherry-picking the most difficult or most beautiful to meet whatever need we have in ourselves or see in culture. But to live quietly, peacefully, and with dignity, we must read in order and, in some ways, do in order.
Before we argue about hotly debated subjects, do we first dignify one another by praying, interceding, and giving thanks for each other? Are we first people of peace by offering supplication (the action of asking or begging for something earnestly or humbly) on behalf of their personhood, character, story, theology, and personality? Are we primarily people of quietness, trusting that it is God who changes hearts and minds and stories—not us?
There is so much division in our world today. One needs only a cursory glance at the news to know brokenness abounds. But it’s not just in culture; it’s in the Church, too—this passage is a prime example of passages that divide instead of unite. How, then, can we be people who first pray before debate, who first intercede before we interject, and who first give thanks before we theologize?
This morning, as I write, I want to stay in the first few verses of 1 Timothy chapter 2 before I move further down in the passage. I want to learn to pray with this kind of open-handedness to the God of the universe on behalf of all people everywhere.
Lore Ferguson Wilbert is a writer, thinker, and learner. She blogs at Sayable, and tweets and instagrams at @lorewilbert. She has a husband named Nate, a puppy named Harper Nelle, and too many books to read in one lifetime.