Tuesday, June 13, 2006

When We Feel Isolated

A New Look At 2 Timothy

At one time or another we have all felt as though we are isolated, that our faith, and the strength or weakness of our faith, keeps us separated from those in our lives.

There was a time when I took some time away from being online, and I did a good bit of reading. Marie (formerly of this blog) sent me a wonderful book that she had rescued from incineration there in Australia (when many dioceses, monasteries, convents, or parishes receive new copies of books they already have, they often burn the old copies to prevent profanation), called "The Early Church In The Acts of the Apostles And In Their Writings". This book, takes the book of Acts, and places the Letters of Paul, the Letters of John, Peter, Jude, and Revelations in the order in which they appeared according to Luke’s presentation of events as he related in Acts, and also gives the historical aspects of those leaders among the Romans and Jews as mentioned in Acts and the books that follow Acts.

This wonderful little book, is a treasure. Being someone who loves history and reading scripture, I found it opened many things in those books that I had somehow missed, and for me, placed into context what was happening as regards the early Church. Yet, perhaps the most amazing things for me was, the way the book of Romans, and 2nd Timothy were both opened to me. I had read both, Romans more so than 2nd Timothy, and what I found, made it seem as though I had just read them both for the very first time.

Especially 2nd Timothy. This has to be the most touching, most faith filled of all of Paul's letters. When we read the other letters of Paul, we see mostly instructions and corrections to the early churches in Corinth, Rome, Ephesus, Philippi, and so on. In 2nd Timothy, we find Paul who is a man who is keenly aware that his earthly ministry and life as apostle, teacher, and father to his children of faith, was soon coming to an end. Yet, Paul guided Timothy with love, urging him to keep the teachings he had been taught, and warning him to be on guard against those who taught falsely, or who would never accept the gospel, and would attack it and those who taught it.

In this letter, in the last chapter especially, is where I felt the sorrow and loneliness of Paul. With the exception of Luke, all of Paul's "friends" and disciples, had found reason to desert him, and Paul found him self very much isolated and alone. He asks Timothy to join him as soon as possible, and to try to join him before winter, and to bring Mark with him (yes, Mark, the writer of the 2nd gospel) as Mark had been of great service to him before. He asked for his cloak, and most significantly, his books and parchments. In the Neronian persecutions which were occurring then, Paul had been arrested in Troas, and as a Roman citizen had been brought to Rome (for the second time) to stand trial. His arrest had evidently been unforeseen, had occurred quickly, and he found himself unable to gather any of his meager possessions, especially his beloved scriptures. Paul was hurt that during his second trial, not one of those whom he had brought to Christ, came to his aid. All deserted him, and perhaps, were ashamed and fearful of being associated with a "criminal" such as Paul. Yet, once again, as astonishing as it seems, Paul saw in this trial, the opportunity he received of spreading the gospel to those Gentiles who had not yet heard it.

If you want a new found appreciation for Paul and his ministry, his sufferings, disappointments, and persecutions, the strength, unwavering faith and love for God by one man, apparently left alone at the end of his life, read 2nd Timothy. I hope you find in it what I found, and that is an appreciation for a man who held strongly to his faith and his mission for God, and who was always teaching, and always ensuring, that as the Apostle to the Gentiles, that we would have Jesus Christ, and the hope that is Jesus Christ.

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