Leadership not with the idea of being the most power, having the most authority, being the biggest, the best, the most well known, but rather to serve each other. “The first shall be last and the last shall be first,” says Jesus. “He who wants to be the greatest in heaven needs to be like these powerless children.” The risen Christ said to Paul as Paul pleaded for his physical ailment, his thorn in the flesh he called, it, the Risen Christ said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God does the most amazing things with those who are weak, / powerless, / no standing. Anytime you see a faithful person that is weak, take note, for that is who God uses. The way of Jesus is to serve others, the greatest leader, Jesus Christ, “humbled himself, took the form of a man, and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.” Take note of the weak, the misfits, those who are rejected, for those are the people whom God so often uses for his kingdom work, for his glory. Maybe he’ll even choose to use you/me.
An early lesson for me in leadership was to roll bandages (illustration from beginning of this message about a childhood task given through the women's ministries of rolling bandages for missionaries in India). Sometimes I imagine installing a hidden camera in this building just to see who does what in a week. Then I could publish in the bulletin, so and so wiped down the kitchen counter. Don’t tell me quietness and submission are not good words, it’s the way of peace, it’s the way of God. And of course, what goes on outside the church walls is staggering… The Lord will conquer the world through those who are gentle and humble. May we be part of that army that quietly lives out the peace of God in our lives. I am blessed above all people to have been raised in this church. A quiet and gentle church that has never tried to be the biggest and best, but only served God in the best way we can. To me the giants of faith are the Rod Steel’s who for decades quietly rang the church bell (no pun intended), Ruth Hill, Jenny Hanson’s that made the pillow cases and doilies, Mary Schuett whose hands always felt like sand paper, I used to wish I had hands like Mary… that’s all I’ve ever known, and if I am anything at all, then in a large measure it is because of the example I have seen.
Being a servant of all is a way of life, and if you want to be a leader, then the way is to serve. It’s paradoxical. It makes no sense. But it makes perfect sense. It’s one of those open secrets, in plain sight for all to see, but only makes sense to those who understand and embrace its truth. Living in peace, not drama. That’s the goal. So live it.
Last week we saw Paul tells us to turn away from promoting ourselves, and pray for those with whom we have tension, to intercede, to envision a better way for the other person, to want what God wants for them, to focus on being thankful for what is right.
Now, in our scripture, Paul turns to the women of the church. In the transformational way of thinking of God, Paul is commending the women to lead the way. How do you “Live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness”? Paul is saying, let’s turn to the women to lead us, to be examples, to be servant leaders.
Let’s walk through this scripture. I have to laugh at this scripture because in some ways it is a brilliant move on God’s part. Paul says in the beginning of the letter to not get sidetracked in meaningless arguments, and then a chapter later, we have what is probably one of the most debated scriptures, more ink, more divisions have been waged through the millennia over exactly what Paul means and how we are to apply it to the present day. It’s almost like God is saying, “I dare you to read this scripture and not fight over its meaning.”
The first few verses, 1 Tim. 2:9-10 are easy to understand. How do you live in peace? Don’t be superficial, but substantive. Inner character is more important than trying to make a good outer impression.
1 Tim. 2:11. This is good advice for men and youth and children, too. V. 12 is a definition of servant-leadership. What I want you to notice, though, is the most shocking phrase in this verse. We gloss over it because we immediately try to understand the second part, but the first part is the most incredible: “A Woman should learn…” For the times in which this is written, that is a powerful statement of affirmation that lifts up women. A woman should learn? In the Jewish culture of the time, women were secondary to men, and for Paul to make this statement is enough to show the tremendous value he places on women. Women have something to offer, women can learn, grow in their faith, know the truth of the gospel.
The bottom line is that nobody needs me, you can learn in quietness. In fact, the only way to really mature as a Christian is to spend a whole lot of times with God in the quietness of your own home, or to find solitude. I hope the sermons, Sunday school, and small groups are important to gain a bit of clarity or to find challenges, but the most exciting message is when God speaks to your heart, when you open up the scripture, when you pray to the Lord and hear his voice. Quietness and submission is good, and must be a part of your process of maturity as a Christian, part of the process of finding peace with God and to live a life of godliness and holiness.
1 Tim. 2:12-15 are among the most confusing of all scriptures. The confusion has to do with the best words to translate from Greek to English and the nuances of the Greek language and even when it is the best word, what is the subtle meaning of the chosen word. I am no expert, the truth is that because I would need a refresher in Greek it would have probably taken me 20-30 hours of study to try and fathom all the technicalities of the issues. So, I am going to only say a few things that help me understand this passage of scripture, some of your questions will probably remain unanswered. It’s more important, I believe, to spend a few more hours in the community and even going to Forest’s cross country meet yesterday, than perfect understanding of a very difficult scripture.
Read. 1 Tim. 2:12… What does this mean? Two words to enlarge. I already said earlier that probably instead of silence, quietness is a more accurate usage...
The other word to consider is “authority”… authority is a good translation. However, in the original language, this is the only place this word is used in the New Testament. These two greek words both mean authority, but there is a difference. In other writings, most of the time when this “authority” is used, it means a dictator type of authority based on power, in other words, Paul is saying, “I do not want the women to enter into the fighting of meaningless arguments and try to come out the winners.” There is a better way. Quietness is better. Stay out of the fighting. Don’t wrestle with the pigs. Stay out of the drama. Drama is always about winners and losers. Drama is always about reputation. Do not try to get that kind of manipulative authority that puts other down. Good deeds, quietly, submissively, is far superior. Paul is teaching Timothy how to be a servant-leader, and the best models Timothy has are the women.
Paul knows the church so well in which Timothy is serving that he is saying the men are not appropriate models, but it’s the women that are so easily overlooked, it’s the quiet ones, those that are not making a fuss.
I’m skipping 1 Tim. 2:13-14 and going straight to 15. If you really want to know a reasonable interpretation it is so subtle you can ask me and it will take about five minutes.
1 Tim. 2:15. This verse seems to come out of the blue. Books. Chapter in books. It’s a real head scratcher. Let me just skip all the confusion and controversies and go straight to what I find the most helpful understanding, that makes the most sense to me, and even ties the message of quietness and servant-leadership together. The goal is to live a life of quietness and peace in all godliness and holiness. This is what makes the most sense for v. 15, to me.
Women will be kept safe. Bad translation because in Greek it is not “women” it is “a woman” Talk about the Lord using a women, a submissive woman, a quit woman to accomplish great things, a woman who had her world turned upside down, a woman who was transformed literally by the power of God, a woman who never tried to claim authority but only served in weakness and humility. A better way of understanding this verse: “All Women (and men for that matter) will be saved through the birth of Jesus Christ who was born to a woman, Mary. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the example of a quiet person, a gentle person, a submissive person who was used by God for the world changing birth of Jesus. In order to find peace, not drama, don’t be like those who fight endlessly, but be available, like Mary, in quietness and submission, doing that which is helpful to others, persevering in faith and love and holiness with modesty.
And may it be so. May we as a Christian community rise up and be a witness for Christ through quietness and service, refusing to be sidetracked by endless arguments, persevering in faith and love and holiness with modesty. Jesus Christ was a servant, the women are called to be servants, Mary was a servant, and our calling is to be servants, quietly and submissively. Amen.