Do you ever feel like some of your attributes are too much or too little? Personally, I’m probably too loud in my conversations, too wordy in my writing (hopefully not all of the time!), too short-tempered, and too susceptible to unhealthy snacking! Hopefully, you don’t share my vices, but – if you’re a human being (and not some sort of AI spider scanning this web page) – you probably have some of your own.
This perception of excess isn’t limited to ourselves, though. Others look at us (or we look at others) and are tempted to think the same thing: He’s too laid-back. She’s too opinionated. He’s too heavy. She’s too thin. Sometimes, the judgments are even less polite, and the “too much” or “too little” judgments extend to stereotypes based on ethnicity, social status, or belongings.
In reality, though, each of us is probably “too” something or other, whether in our own minds, or in the perception of others. So, what do we do about it?
The apostle Paul, in a letter to a younger minister named Timothy, wrote the following:
Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
1 Timothy 4:11-14 NIV
From this passage, it appears that some people thought that Timothy was too young for his role. It sounds like other people were thinking this, but perhaps Timothy had bought into this idea as well. I wonder if those who saw Timothy’s age as an obstacle (whether others or Timothy himself) bought into the idea that age is directly correlated to Christian maturity. While there are lessons that take time to learn and practices that take time to develop, I have found this relationship – between age and maturity – to be disproved far too often to be used as a means of prejudice or discrimination. New followers of Jesus can grow quickly in their faith when they are motivated and committed to do so, while long-time Christians can still remain spiritual toddlers if they don’t engage with the expectations of Christ-followers.
Rather than writing some sort of rebuke here for those who judge Timothy by his age (rather than his actual walk with Jesus Christ and his qualifications given by God), Paul offers Timothy direction in his attitude and his behavior. In my own words:
- Don’t listen to the doubters who can’t see past your age. Don’t stand for being treated as less than God called and made you to be.
- Behave according to God’s direction, and in doing so, set an example. While the translation isn’t entirely clear, this behavior should not only prove the naysayers wrong (if they bother to notice) by demonstrating a commitment to Christ, but also provide a robust example to others who are trying to live like Jesus commanded them to.
So, let’s ask ourselves, in addition to youth, what are other reasons that Christian teachers and leaders are discredited today?
- Being too old to be “relevant” (whatever that means)
- Offering a teaching different from a secular minority that tries to control the distribution of messages to the public.
- Being part of a marginalized group (women, ethnic minorities, being disabled, suffering from a condition that isn’t well understood, looking different, etc.).
I’d say that, if you’re in any of those categories, do what Timothy was told to do: don’t listen to those who tell you something different from God’s calling (although it doesn’t hurt to check back with God regularly, to see if your calling is changing over time), and live a life of pure devotion to God.
If we are to be judged for being “too” something, let it be our commitment to God the Father, through Jesus Christ our savior (who is God the Son), with the help of the Holy Spirit (i.e., God the Spirit). Maybe someone will call you a “Jesus freak”, but that’s an accusation that I would be proud to carry.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.