We’re trying to teach our kids about Jesus. To go beyond teaching them “Jesus is your ticket to heaven”, and actually connecting their lives with the story of God bringing redemption and healing to a broken world. Consistently pointing out, and calling forth the Love He is giving them, which is meant to transform the world. The world of which He is already Lord.
Enter, the helpful illustrations of Paul. As he was writing to his “son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2), and trying to encourage him to live for Christ. Even from prison, Paul was desperate to encourage Timothy to live out the good news that was found in and through Jesus. Limited on time, and probably paper, he packed as much as he could into every message. The outcome, is a bit of a scattered bag of metaphors, as in 2 Timothy 2:3-6:
“Share in suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving in the army gets entangled in everyday affairs; the soldier’s aim is to please the enlisting officer. And in the case of an athlete, no one is crowned without competing according to the rules. It is the farmer who does the work who ought to have the first share of the crops.”
It almost seems like Paul is playing some really important game of “Catch Phrase”. He can’t quite get the complete Truth of what he’s trying to say to Timothy into words, so he’s moving from element to element of that important Truth. Instead of simplifying it into something really easy for Timothy to swallow and move on, safely in his pocket; with every phrase he breaks the chains of expectation and makes this Jesus-thing a whole lot bigger than in the previous sentence.
Imagine what our letters might be like, trying to communicate to our children through one final letter. Knowing this will probably be the last thing we’re able to write before we die. Given limited time/space/resources, trying to scrawl by candle light, one last effort to give them the Hope we have in Jesus Christ. The book of 2 Timothy is an amazingly emotional letter, packed with encouragement and life for Timothy and the rest of us, as we peek in on what someone dying for Christ might say to their followers/children.
The good news is this: You’re not waiting to die in a roman jail-cell. Let that sink in for a moment. Take a deep breath, and be thankful.
Now realize, you’re not limited to bouncing around between metaphors. YOU are the living illustration. Telling our kids about God’s love in their heart is awesome and needed. But what is even more likely to transform their lives and connect them to God’s story, are parents & grandparents and extended family and close older friends who are living examples of the Words of God becoming flesh. As we live out the prayer “Thy Kingdom Come”, and invite our children to follow us. Not to “get their ticket to heaven” with us. But to actually join us in the Kingdom and Lordship of Jesus Christ breaking through into our world by moments of genuine love, forgiveness, justice, and living sourced by His Spirit; denying the ways of a world of self-centeredness, and living together in Christian community…
May our days be filled with living out our “final words”…and may those who walk in our footsteps be blessed in receiving them…