Do not address an older man harshly but appeal to him as a father. Speak to younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters—with complete purity.
1 Timothy 5:1-2 (NET Bible)
This passage of scripture has been a conviction for some time now. In the past I was heavily involved in what I would describe as a very secular lifestyle, and there are many things that I recall from being within it. One of those things, that as a whole seems to not be so present in the Christian culture that I read about and witness (to a lesser extent in my local church), is a healthy view of the concept of equality.
Equality is not a dirty word. When defined and used correctly it is a word to describe the level playing field of a fellow image bearer of God to another image bearer of God.
I spent much from my past being very close friends with both genders, and all of which being a vast array of ages. Very seldom was my age or gender looked upon by those friends as a deterrent towards wisdom, privilege, opportunity, care, comfortability, or many other qualities afforded to a correct understand of equality.
* I do not mean equality in the sense the SJW (social justice warriors) intend. Nor do I mean it in any way to denigrate the roles of men and women in the home, life, local church, or workplace. This is a different category of equality I’m speaking of which will be fleshed out below. *
The thing I’m speaking negatively of goes as follows:
1) A man (never-mind the age for our purposes) and woman (never-mind the age for our purposes) can never be alone together, unless they are married.
2) Younger men (never-mind how much younger) have no place in a leadership role, for they aren’t experienced enough.
3) I can’t be around women I find desirable and attractive, for I cannot see them as not a potential spouse.
I could multiply the examples, but I do hope you get the point.
By and far these examples have a very subjective opinion behind them. More often than not the ideas they are rooted in are reactions to the culture’s ethical and spiritual deprivation.
As Christians, we must certainly react to these ethical and spiritual poverties of culture. We must however, do so with proper definitions and categories.
To say, “A Christian man and a Christian woman not married to each other cannot be alone together in any capacity is the correct response to the culture and the sin within themselves,” *essentially* rejects the reality that the Spirit that resides in them has the ability to guide their hearts and minds.
Are there precautions to be considered?
Are there situations where it would be unwise?
Of course, but none of these can bring one to forget that the one having professed faith in Christ has the Spirit of the living God within them. This same Spirit is supposed to direct our paths and does grant wisdom and bring to Christians fellow council that holds each other accountable to our actions and motivations.
To confess that you may never be a subordinate to an adult male younger than you, rejects that the same Spirit who gives the gifts as he sees fit can call that younger man to be your spiritual leader (read here pastor/elder/teacher).
Physical age is not the final arbiter in what makes a leader a leader.
If a Christian man can’t see a fellow Christian woman as what she is, a sister in the same Lord of all; then reality needs to hit him upside the head.
This brings me back to the passage of scripture I led this post off with, 1 Tim 5:1–2.
This string of coherent words from the beloved Apostle Paul comes after a very lengthy diatribe to the younger Timothy.
How much younger?
Does it even matter?
Paul tells the younger Timothy to, “Command and teach these things.” These things are what he has spoken of in the preceding sections. He implores him to, “Let no one look down on you because you are young…” And the way in which Timothy should react to those who may do such things is that he should, “set an example for the believers in your speech, conduct, love, faithfulness, and purity.”
Paul goes on to exhort Timothy to teach the scriptures, and read them publicly amongst other Christians. That his gift of teaching was given by God through the elders of the church. That he is to progress in them, and most importantly to, “Be conscientious about how you live and what you teach. Persevere in this, because by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.”
Which brings us to the most relevant part for our purposes; it is here where Paul in essence gives Timothy a quick rundown of how he should treat all those around him, those he is to be teaching.
“Do not address an older man harshly but appeal to him as a father. Speak to younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters—with complete purity.”
I believe quite strongly that this exhortation to Timothy is relevant to every Christian, in every culture, in every period from the Cross till the end of the ages. The principle is this:
1) Older men have an inherent respect granted to them.
2) Younger men are not to be treated as inferior to older men, but as equals… brothers and not younger brothers mind you.
3) Older women have the same inherent quality of respect granted to them that older men do.
4) Younger women are by no means insignificant or just “marriage fodder.” They are to be treated as sisters… and just in case the point isn’t driven home enough, the younger women also get that little refrain, “with complete purity.”
This passage has been quite strong in my interactions with everyone since I read it anew a few years ago. I try my absolute hardest, by the grace of Christ, to do everything in this list. As a man who prayed for the opportunity and possibility of being in leadership of a local church (and at the particular time of that rereading, the desire), I took this passage to heart. When I finally got into a local church it was even more imperative to do so, though the opportunity and possibility of leadership has since diminished convictionally.
The point still stands, however, that our witness as to what true equality means should be stronger and more sure than whatever the worldly culture tries to dictate.