Monday, September 9, 2013

Itching Ears

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

2 Timothy 4:1-5

A disheartening challenge is laid out by Paul to Timothy.  The fact that people will no longer want the truth but will desire lies which satisfy their craving is a difficult reality to deal with.  Truth be told, this is one of the biggest challenges a teacher may face.  Paul himself is a teacher and he knows the pain of this challenge.  And he is preparing Timothy for this reality.  The desire of every teacher is to proclaim the truth and he/she will only be satisfied when the students accept the truth.  Teachers will grieve in unspeakable agony when after proclaiming the truth, their students reject the truth and instead embrace lies.  At that point, there is nothing more teachers can do except leaving the students to their own thoughts.  Only if the students realize their mistake, then the teachers may be cheered.  This process is easier said than done.  Especially if the truth the teachers know is the truth about life and death.  The pain of knowing our students going to the destructive direction is unbearable.  For teachers have love both to the truth and to the students.  To find the delicate balance between loving the truth and the students is not something that is easy.  There are times when teachers love truth more than their students.  There are times when teachers love the students more than the truth.  If teachers love the truth more than students, then they might abandon the students for the sake of the truth.  If teachers love students more than the truth, then compromise might happen and truth will slowly transform into lies.  But if one must choose, the right thing to do is
to love the truth more than students.  With that being said, it doesn’t mean that teachers then no longer love their students.  But instead, it means that teachers love students less than they love the truth.

The truth is eternal.  In the context of Biblical account, God has revealed that the truth belongs to Jesus Christ.  Moreover, Jesus identifies himself as the Truth!  (John 14:6).  And we are created after the image of Jesus Christ.  And thus within our spiritual and physical self, we find truth in us.  Truth is natural for us.  Lies destroy us.  The truth about this is told by God throughout the Scripture beginning with the first sin committed by Adam and Eve.  The lie planted in Adam and Eve’s minds by the Serpent leads them to the doom of the entire world.  Lie is like inserting destructive chemicals into our body which often can and will degrade our cells.  Thus, if we continue to insert destructive chemicals into our body, then our body will sure be doomed beyond repair.  The same goes with our spiritual self.  If we continuously consume lies in our life, then soon our spirit will wither and be doomed beyond repair.  No wonder, in order for us to be repaired after the entry of sin through Adam and Eve, God had to sent his son Jesus Christ, who is the Truth himself, in order that the Truth may dwell within us and thus restore us to our original condition.  The sad thing is that the world rejects the Truth.  This truth is recorded in the gospels, and made explicit in John 1:10-11

10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

It is ironic that the whole world needs the Truth, but when the Truth comes, the world kills him.  The world embraces lie and considers the Truth to be threatening their way of life.  This is even more painful than what Paul and Timothy face according to our passage.  Paul understands the weight of the matter, and therefore he provides Timothy with a heavy basis: 1) in the presence of God, 2) in the presence of Jesus Christ, who is to judge the living and the dead, 3) by Jesus’ appearing, and 4) by Jesus’ Kingdom.  This is a heavy duty foundation that Paul shows to Timothy.  This foundation is to charge Timothy: 1) to preach the word, 2) be ready in season and out of season, 3) reprove, 4) rebuke, 5) exhort, and all these must be done in complete patience and teaching.  This charge is necessary knowing the fact that people will ignore truthful teachers.

            As teachers are also humans, we all have our weaknesses.  For those who have devoted their heart and soul to become teachers, they know that they are weak when their students love lie and mock on the truth.  Such phenomenon will pierce every teacher’s heart.  The self accusation and imagination usually speaks of our failure as teacher.  For every genuine teacher’s heart, failure to teach our students to embrace the truth is the biggest failure.  In the same line, we can spot genuine teachers and false teachers by recognizing this truth.  If a teacher then prefers the students over truth, he/she will gradually turn to the dark side and will blur the line between truth and lie.  Compromising the truth will become justifiable in his/her mind for the sake of loving the students.  When this happens, soon truth will have no place in his/her heart, and certainly will escape from the heart of his/her students.  A false teacher is the one that sells the truth for the sake of his/her love of students.  As genuine teachers, we all know that the truth will set us free (cf. John 8:32).  This is one of the reasons why teachers continue teaching even though their pay is low and their value in the world is greatly underestimated.  Genuine teachers teach because they know that the truth they are teaching will set people free.  Free from lies.  Free from the bondage of the slavery of illusion and myths.  And so they continue to teach even though they are cast away to the bottom of the pyramid.  But let me interject here that if society doesn’t start respecting and valuing teachers they way they should, then the world will be filled with lies.  This fact will only lead to the world’s destruction.  Now, God gives Paul and Timothy a huge task.  The task to set the people free.  Free from lies.  Free from the impending destruction.  So that people may be at peace with themselves, be at peace with others, be at peace with nature, and ultimately be at peace with God himself, who is the Truth.

            Paul tells Timothy to keep preaching the word and so on.  No matter how much the resistance and how strong the rejection, Timothy is to keep preaching the truth.  Jesus said in John 17:17 that the word of God is truth.  In this truth, the word, Jesus pleaded with his Father to sanctify all his disciples.  We are to be set apart from the world.  For we are agents of truth.  We belong to God, the Truth.  Jesus has set the example.  To the end of his life, he never compromises the truth.  Even before Pilate, Jesus never compromised the truth.  Pilate did not understand the truth, and so he asked “What is truth?”  (John 18:38).  Timothy is to follow the example of Jesus Christ, just as Paul followed the example of Jesus Christ.  And we are too, we ought to follow the example of Jesus Christ.  Even if we are to lose our life, we are not to compromise the truth.  Genuine teachers know this and thus they suffer when they meet those who only desire to satisfy their itching ears, in which way they then reject the truth and indulge in lies.  And since this suffering is real, Paul encourages Timothy to endure this suffering.  For this is Timothy’s duty as a minister of the truth.

            Let it be clear here, that this charge Paul gives to Timothy is not only applicable to the ministers in the church or in any ministry setting as we are using the term ministry/minister now.  But it applies to all of us who believe in Jesus Christ and call ourselves as Christians.  For if we go deeper into the truth we will not be able to deny that we too are ministers of the word.  For the Word has now dwelled with us.  The word is in our lips for we have been taught the word.  The truth flows in our blood for the blood of Christ has been transfused into our vein.  This charge that Paul gives Timothy is also for all of us.  People of the world will be, in fact they already are, rejecting the truth and only desire to satisfy their itching ears driven by their passion.  Issues such as same sex marriage, homosexuality, premarital sex, extramarital affairs, promiscuity, modern day slavery through unjust salary structure and economic system, corruption, world domination, racialism, etc. dominate the news today and become public arena for the relativistic philosophy to thrive.  Little do people know that information is not necessarily truth.  Information is just information.  And as ministers of the word, of the truth, our task is not to pass on information, but instead our duty is to proclaim the truth.  In that case we ought to be in tune with the Truth himself.  That is why we pray.  That is why we read and reflect on the Scripture.  That is why we research the general revelation and interpret it accordingly.  We are agents of truth after all.  We are redeemed by the Truth himself.  And we are now back to our original condition, in which we naturally speak, seek, desire, and live the truth.  And so, Paul’s charge remains.  Even in the midst of the world who only desires to satisfy its itching ears and thus denying the truth and embracing lies, we, as agents of truth, are to continue to preach the word, the truth, in any circumstance, to reprove, to rebuke, and to exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

* The Business of Christian Education LIV

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