…older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. (1 Timothy 5:2)
Today’s passage is a continuation of Paul’s earlier direction: “Treat younger men as brothers…” These instructions regarding women are particularly important because Timothy is a young man. Paul has already encouraged him to live a life of purity, suggesting moral self-discipline. But now he gives specifics.
I imagine Timothy faced many temptations in the city of Ephesus. He was young, single, respected, and supernaturally gifted. And he lived in a pagan culture where a high value was not always placed on morality. He also, undoubtedly, had critics, which means he was vulnerable to women who were good at healing bruised egos.
What was the solution?
Timothy needed to see other women as members of his family. They were his mothers and sisters. And having a sensual affair with your mother or your sister was just…well…wrong on many levels. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. I am just saying…
Of course, it wasn’t just the impropriety of such relationships Paul was addressing. He was also using relationships in a healthy family as a model for relationships in the church. If you don’t have a healthy relationship with your mother or your sister, this point may be problematic. But even if this is the case, you may still know families that show you how things are supposed to function.
A mother cares for us and nurtures us, and we respect her because of the sacrifices she has made. A sister cheers us on and understands our struggles. After all, she was raised in the same environment we were, and if we have been wounded, there is a good chance she has too. Briefly put, mothers and sisters are on our side, and they relate to us on a unique level others cannot.
There is also a protective aspect at work here. Even families that argue from time to time stand up for one another. Because we love one another we don’t want to see each other hurt. So why would a brother in Christ do anything, or allow anything that would bring harm to his mother or sister in Christ?
Can a brother cross a line of purity with a woman in his spiritual family and claim it is for love? If she is married can he put her, her husband and children through a living hell and say he cares deeply for her?
No. If he loves her he will only do everything possible to help her maintain her character and dignity. And if a spiritual brother and sister are single and free to marry, the brother will not ask his sister to do anything that might cause her to feel shame in the sight of God.
Relationships are tricky, and establishing healthy boundaries with members of the opposite sex in the church family is filled with snares from the evil one. But seeing older women as mothers and younger women (all women, in fact) as sisters is a good place to start.
Dear God, help me keep my thoughts pure. In Jesus’ name, Amen.