This morning I read 1 Timothy 1:1-2. It contains little more than a standard opening to a letter of greeting–who is writing (Paul), who is being written to (Timothy), and some well wishes. Much of it is essentially perfunctory. But today a word leapt out to me. Here’s the passage:
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope, to Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
The word that leapt out to me is what is here rendered “true child.” In Greek, the word is γνησιος (gnesios). Its primary definition is “born in wedlock,” and from that idea we get the concepts of legitimate, genuine, or “true child.”
Skipping too quickly over this word means missing out on something I think Paul is doing here. Remember, this letter will not be read privately by Timothy, but aloud to the Church over which he is overseer. As such it is a message both for Timothy and Timothy’s Church. And Paul referring to Timothy as his “born in wedlock” child of faith is a pretty unmistakable public affirmation–not unlike, really, the affirmation that the Father speaks to Jesus when He says, “This is my son, whom I love.” “See this young man,” Paul says, “he’s my child in the faith. He is my partner and representative. I believe in him, and so should you.”
Paul and Timothy provide us with unique insights into mentoring relationships today. I can only hope that older ministers would take some time to encourage–and affirm–the call of God on their younger counterparts. When God spoke his affirmation of Jesus, the Spirit descended upon him in power–who can say if the Spirit will not descend in fresh ways upon them, as well?