What I’m Reading Today: 2 Timothy 2-4
When I was in seminary, I had an amazing colleague who came from a political background much like I did. She was one of the most gifted individuals I have ever met. Shortly after meeting her, however, it was clear that she had no plans to engage in a traditional practice of ministry (i.e. parish ministry, chaplaincy, etc.).
When people asked why she came to seminary, she would reply, “So I can become the Religious Left’s answer to Jerry Falwell.”
At first this sounded like an exciting goal – and certainly having someone with such intelligence and charisma to respond to the Religious Right was something that many of us thought was long overdue! Just being around her made me wonder if that might be a piece of my own call too!
As time passed, however, I began to wonder if such a response was the best way to advance the causes I held close to my heart. Was it really good for me to build my ministry based primarily on what (and whom) I opposed?
It was readings like today’s passage from 2 Timothy that caused me to ask that question. In today’s reading, for instance, the author wrote: “Run after mature righteousness – faith, love, peace – joining those who are in honest and serious prayer before God. Refuse to get involved in inane discussions; they always end up in fights. God’s servant must not be argumentative, but a gentle listener and teacher who keep cool, working firmly but patiently with those who refuse to obey.”
Over time, a subtle – but profound! – shift began to occur in my life. Instead of leading with negative, confrontational energies that drew me into conflicts; I started leading with positive, conciliatory energies that drew me into something else. Relationships!
Don’t get me wrong. I still held the same positions I did before. What changed was how I went about holding them. Instead of railing against those who were labeled anti-immigration, for instance, I simply adopted practices in my life and ministry that extended God’s love and care to all people (whether or not they had the documentation to prove their legal status). Instead of calling individuals who stood in opposition to reproductive rights names, I began offering myself as a spiritual resource to individuals and family who were discerning the options before them. Instead of shouting down those who believed the institution of marriage should be reserved only for couples of opposite genders, I simply offered the full range of my ministerial support to all loving couples in need of my support and guidance. In other words, I focused my energies on what I stood for – and not against. That helped me live into the words from today’s passage.
So how are you at living into those words? Have the polarized (and polarizing) energies of the world caused you to become an argumentative person; or has the Spirit allowed you to be a gentle listener and a teacher who is able (on most days) to keep your cool?
Til next time…