Reflection on 1 Timothy 2:1-7:
by Lizette Merchán Pinilla
As a bilingual minister (translating from English to Spanish and Spanish to English, and speaking with the accents unique to "Okie" English and Colombian Spanish), I find it interesting how my faith has been doubly enhanced, challenged and reshaped--in two languages. All of this occurs at the same time, and shows up in the many new ways in which I learn, teach, preach and relate to the world and words around me. Especially in regard to the world and the words of the Bible and its historical presentation of scripture to be read, studied, read again, then finally interpreted to today’s reality.
In my theological studies at seminary, I learned more about what my faith required of me, and what is meant by offering an "inclusive invitation" and an "all-included extravagant welcome." I learned of a renewed approach that included a welcoming and still-speaking, extravagant God for all. This welcome is especially relevant today because of the context which surrounds us and how it is portrayed to us by our environment, customs, and views at that particular time and place. This is an analogy of what 1 Timothy 2:1-7 dealt with, and how the reality of that scripture’s context still relates to our present-day lives in the 21st century.
Threats and challenges
All of this personal background informs and facilitates today's interpretation which helps us to relate on some level to those who, like Timothy, experienced God as "living faith" (James D.G. Dunn, "The First and Second Letters to Timothy and The Letter to Titus," The New Interpreter's Bible). Paul reminded Timothy of the living faith shared by all Christians, and urged him to spread the good news.
This could be accomplished by peeling off all the layers of how a community is to interpret and enliven a faith from the personal to the collective in a society that was already polluted, suspicious, and predominantly non-Christian. Christianity was, at the time, under persecution as a minority faith group among other foreign religions and was also threatened by the potential influence of false teachers and teachers with ulterior motives.
A living faith in the shape of prayer--including prayers for rulers, although "perhaps we should note," Fred Craddock writes, "that the passage only calls for supplications to be made on behalf of ruling authorities," and does not impose "submission" to them (Preaching through the Christian Year C).
The need of prayer for those in leadership positions represents the hopes for freedom of expression of individuals' own faith beliefs regardless of their socioeconomic status, color, race, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity, as well as the hope of gaining the respect which is innate to each one of us.
Prayerful, not submissive
This is not to assume that Christians will always be submissive to those who rule, but rather that they will join sincere and perhaps challenging efforts (those which speak truth to power) with those in leadership positions. Perhaps they will also join forces with those who have different beliefs from their own. "Being prayerful for political leaders is one thing," Craddock writes; "being blindly submissive to them is quite another" (Preaching through the Christian Year C).
We hear a call, then, to welcome all to a place where all of God's people have struggled at some point in their lives: those who are still there, or will return, or have come back out, to worship "a God who is more than a tribal deity," Luke Timothy Johnson writes, "a God who must be one for all humans; and if God is to be fair, then there must be some principle by which all humans can respond to God: faith" (The First and Second Letters to Timothy, The Anchor Bible).
This living faith is one in which God's beloved community experiences God through the ways in which justice and human dignity were fought for: to the point of death for what was just and dignifying for all.
Made in God's image
We see ourselves as made in God's image: tall or short, standing or in wheelchairs, with or without personal and family satisfaction, at home or homebound, with internal hurts, speaking one or multiple languages, realizing small or huge accomplishments. Not all of these characteristics are on the magnitude of "life–changing," but they give importance to the One who truly is present with us and who gives us a living faith that claims us for who we are.
God provides a living and breathing faith, one in which Christ mediates with God, and God acts with us through Christ: as a rescuer/empowerer from whatever troubles we go through, a rescuer who is distinguishable from any other god, emperor, government, or other entity. We see God's image in ourselves and one another, with our personal and communal sorrows. Some of our sorrows are public; many more are private, and we yearn for God's answers to meet all of our requests, needs and challenges.
Read the scriptures and this entire reflection here.