Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. (NIV)Older Men
I think I can fit into that category. I’m older. However when I gather together with Senior Saints Bible study at church, I’m one of the younger. Are there any older men there who need exhorting? If so, how would I go about exhorting them instead of treating them harshly?However, Timothy was a young man, possibly in his 30s at the time Paul wrote to him. Therefore, Paul wasn’t talking about how he would work only with men in their 60s or older, but even younger as well. When we were young, many of us thought that our parents were stupid. It isn’t until we grew older that we understood how wise they really were. When our parents didn’t get it, we were short with them, rolled our eyes, and shook our heads in disbelief. That wasn’t very respectful.
Approach – AttitudeSo now, put yourself in Timothy’s position with a congregation that includes many men older than yourself. Some of these guys have been leaders in their community, in business, and in their homes as long as Timothy was alive. Yet, they are all young in Christ. How can Timothy approach someone who needs to apply sound doctrine to his life (1 Tim 4:11-12)?
Personalizing it, the first clue is to view a man that I need exhort as if he were my father. Perspective is a very important part of our relationships with others. I suspect that in Timothy’s era, respect for your father was a whole lot different than it is today. He didn’t have to contend with the inane images of father’s that bombard us on TV. It was a lot more like the relationship the Beaver had with his dad in Leave it to Beaver. Sure, the kids messed up, but they respected their father. There will always be people like Eddie who have no respect for anyone. He is a great example of how not to approach an older person. Mr. Cleaver was never fooled by Eddie.
Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you. (Ex 20:12 NKJV)The first thing to do is approach the person and show him honor, just as I would honor my father. I wouldn’t simply jump on him and start scolding or reprimanding him. No, instead I should ask him what is going on in his life. I would try to find out more about what he has been doing or saying and why. I need to let him speak to me before I speak to him. I will also ask permission to explain what I understand.
You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. (1 Peter 5:5 NASU)We have a difficult road to walk when dealing with elders. In many ways, we need to be subject to them. They are often in positions of leadership and it doesn’t make it easier if we find that they need to be exhorted. Before approaching our elders, we need to make sure that we are doing it with humility, not in arrogance. We may think we know more than they do, and even if we do, it isn’t time to flaunt that before them.
We also need to make sure we aren’t holding some other agenda in our hearts. Humility means we are genuinely concerned for the other person and we aren’t trying to elevate ourselves in their eyes. When our hearts aren’t right, they will see through us as quickly as the Beaver’s dad could see through Eddie. We need to remove the log out of our eyes (Matt 7:3).Most versions tell us not to rebuke an older man. NASU says we shouldn’t sharply rebuke him. Does this mean that we really shouldn’t say anything negative or not. The NASU picks up the concept of not using a sharp rebuke from the context and other usages of the word, not the original text. The context clearly instructed Timothy to do something about the situation. Other uses of the word as recorded in the Textus Receptus include Matt 8:26 when Jesus rebuked the wind and waves, Matt 16:22 when Peter tried to rebuke Jesus, Mark 8:33 when Jesus rebuked Peter saying for Satan to get behind him. The list goes on, but the concept is that this is a get-in-your-face type of rebuke. This is reserved for those who are really messing up and demons.
Exhort – Encourage – Appeal – IntreatSo how should I approach an older person who needs some correction? Some major versions of the Bible use all three of these words when dealing with older men who need correction. I like the NASU (appeal) and the KJV (intreat). They impart the concept that I’m asking something from him instead of tell him something. It shows that I can get my point across by asking questions as well as informing. It fits with the idea of showing respect and honor to the older person. It helps encourage because he is then helping the younger person rather than becoming defensive.
Sometimes a bit firmer approach is needed.
So Elihu, the son of Barachel the Buzite, answered and said: "I am young in years, and you are very old; Therefore I was afraid, And dared not declare my opinion to you. I said, 'Age should speak, And multitude of years should teach wisdom.'” (Job 32:6-7 NKJV)Elihu had just listened to three older men berate Job at length. He kept quiet but finally had to speak. He continued to apologize for interrupting their debate but also expressed his concern for the truth. Even then, I think that they would have jumped all over Elihu had not God intervened. I had one experience where I felt compelled, as did Elihu, to speak up. I waited to do it in private and thought I was doing it correctly. However, the conversation ended by the older person thanking me for my criticism. It was obvious that I hadn’t approached the man correctly and that it was taken as rebuke instead of encouragement.
Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. (Rom 12:18 NLT)While it isn’t always possible to live at peace with everyone, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Paul made it clear that we should do more than just make a half-hearted attempt. We need to do all we can. That may mean going back and apologizing for our approach.
Younger MenYou would think that talking to a younger man would be easier. However Paul advises that we treat them as brothers. That means that we don’t look down on them or lord it over them. Instead we need to show them honor and respect as an equal.
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. (Matt 18:15 RSV)This is good advice whether the person is older or younger. Does this verse apply, though, to dealing with someone who has not sinned against you but has been advancing some poor biblical teaching? Lev 6:2-5 says that a person who has wronged a neighbor has sinned against the Lord. If a person is teaching something that is wrong, then it will most likely show up in a resulting sinful behavior. It leads to sin, weakens faith, distracts from service, and could even lead someone away from Christ. It will definitely hurt someone if left unchecked. So, yes, it does apply to correcting someone’s doctrine even it if hasn’t affected you personally.
Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted. (Gal 6:1 NASB)Many brothers are competitive. Instead of approaching each other in gentleness, they are always looking for a way of one-upping the other. It is probably even harder to correct someone who has been teaching bad doctrine than some other sins. It could look like you are trying to show your superiority. We need to look at our approach carefully to make sure we aren’t coming across as the spiritual giant than the brother is a spiritual moron.
The warning to us is also that we need to be spiritual. We need to be walking with the Lord and know that our conscience is clear, especially in the area where we are trying to help our brother. A phenomena occurs when we listen to another person’s trespass, we can be tempted to do the same thing. That is why so many counselors, pastors, and psychiatrists end up in illicit relationships with counselees.
WomenThis leads right into the topic of a man and his relationship to women in the church. Remember that we’re talking about a young pastor who has to correct and teach his church members. Therefore he is going to be encountering some difficult situations with women of all ages. This can happen to anyone of us.
However, the advice about dealing with men still applies to dealing with women. Treating older women as mothers is the same kind of advice as honoring older men as fathers. Speaking gently and showing the kind of respect to a younger woman as you would your own sister is imperative.The only addition is that there must be absolute purity. Paul didn’t mention that when one man is teaching and admonishing another man. This would mean that closed-door meetings alone with a woman would not be appropriate.
How does this instruction apply to women in the church when dealing with each other? I think that question should be answered with a question. Why wouldn’t it apply in the same way? Is there any reason that we can’t substitute the sexes in this verse?
Rebuke not an elder, but intreat her as a mother; and the younger women as sisters; The elder men as fathers; the younger as brothers, with all purity. (1 Tim 5:1-2 KJV with genders changed.)Does that mean that a woman should be able to rebuke, exhort, encourage, or appeal to a man who has a problem? 1 Tim 2:12 covered Paul’s instruction about having women in authority. He didn’t allow women to teach men or be in authority over them. Therefore, as a general rule, you shouldn’t find a woman in a position where she has to put this kind of teaching into practice that Paul is telling Timothy to do.
However, this doesn’t rule out informal occasions when a woman must confront a man. If he hasn’t been treating a woman properly then she should certainly follow the direction of Matt 18:15-17. I’m assuming the man is a jerk in this situation, she may want to make sure the first encounter is in an appropriate location where no wrong intentions can take place.
If a woman hears a man make a comment about Scripture that is incorrect, she certainly should be able to inquire what he means and then share with him what her understanding is. However, if he persists in something that would be heresy, it would not be her position to pursue it further on her own, just as it would not be wise for a man to continue without the agreement of others – in essence applying Matt 18:15-17 to the situation.