Not sure where I’m going with this, but chewing on a command to obey this morning.
Avoid such people.
Doesn’t sound very “Christian” at first blush, does it? Maybe it’s just the translation. Let’s check out others.
Having nothing to do with them (NIV). Stay away from people like that (NLT). From such people turn away (NKJV). And these be constantly shunning (WNT).
Nope. Not just the translation.
Avoid literally means to turn one’s self away from. They’re heading your way? Go another way. They wanna connect for coffee? Start drinking tea only. Avoid them.
Only time this word is used in the NT. So, Paul (moved by the Spirit) grabs a rarely used word in order to make a pretty emphatic point.
So, who are “such people”? Who are “people like that”? Paul identifies them pretty clearly, not sparing detail in describing them.
For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
(2Timothy 3:2-5 ESV)
Nineteen. I count nineteen identifying factors in a list which marks “such people.” A lot of them, it seems to me, mark also the spirit of our culture today. Read the list again and see if it doesn’t seem that way to you too.
So, are we to avoid the world? No, that can’t be it. We’ve actually been sent into the world as ambassadors of the King to establish outposts for the kingdom. Well then, who was Timothy (who am I) to turn away from?
I think the key that unlocks the command is in the last identifying factor. Those we are to avoid, who have bought into the brutality of a culture which has rejected God and loves self and pleasure more than the Creator, are those having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Professing Christians, church-going people, who have given themselves over to self and to the world. Those who walk like the world and talk like the world while trying to convince others they are really representing another world. Turn away from them, says Paul. Having nothing to do with them.
Seems harsh. But, if I’m reading it right, it’s still a command to obey.
How zealous we need to be for the purity (not perfection) of God’s people — those called to be a light on a hill and the salt of the earth. How determined, as much as lies in us, to be on guard against the leaven of the world which seeks to infiltrate the church. How great our resolve to live in a counter-cultural manner. How intent to not just have the appearance of godliness but to demonstrate also the reality of its transforming, other-worldly power. Willing to the engage in the world’s games but playing by a set of heavenly rules.
Times of difficulty. That’s what Paul says these last days will be (2Tim. 3:1). Difficult times demanding difficult decisions as we discern and detach from those who say they are of Christ but live in contradiction to the way of Christ.
Oh, how we need wisdom. How we need to discernment. How we need courage.
Only by His grace. Only for His glory.