1 Timothy 5:1-2: Never speak harshly to an older man, but appeal to him respectfully as you would to your own father. Talk to younger men as you would to your own brothers. 2 Treat older women as you would your mother, and treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters.
I really love this passage. If we follow this advice we’re going to treat everyone with respect and care. I love that. That is certainly what Jesus would do and it is how I need to operate. I think I generally do a pretty good job of this. I do my best to be kind and respectful to everyone I encounter, even those that I don’t necessarily disagree with. However, I do think it is important to think about this in a variety of contexts.
This passage made me think of a situation I was reading about just yesterday. I am currently reading Hustle Harder Hustle Smart a great book on success by Curtis Jackson (50 Cent). I read a lot of motivational and business success books but 50 Cent isn’t necessarily an author I would typically gravitate toward, however, this book was highly recommended within the Arete business group I am part of and it has not disappointed me. I am only about halfway through and I have drawn a lot of great insights from it. It is actually one of the better books of its kind I have read and I would recommend it to anyone. At any rate, an example that Curtis shared has stuck with me and made my brain work over the past 24 hours.
This story starts on page 151 of the book. Curtis tells about a recent conversation he himself had with a friend regarding Mike Pence avoiding one-on-one meetings with females out of respect for his wife. I have actually written on that topic before and also on Billy Graham doing the same thing. I have always seen that as being a very honorable and noble thing because it is showing deep respect for their wives and their marriage and I have applauded it. 50 Cent agreed with me feeling much the same. He thought it was honorable for Vice President Pence to recognize where he could be weak and be intentional about doing what is right. That is until his perspective was shifted by a friend that challenged him on it just as his writing challenged me.
That friend was not a fan of what Mike Pence was doing and thought it was actually a really negative thing. I wanted to dismiss this argument because it challenged me but this friend’s argument was actually very compelling. He said while Mike’s actions do show respect and honor for his wife it also puts other females at a disadvantage. With this policy in place, men have the ability to connect one on one with the Vice President, build relationships and participate in a variety of events. So much relationship-building happens one on one in life and by bringing another person into the mix automatically it puts a female subjected to this policy at a significant disadvantage. These women aren’t able to connect in the same way that an equivalent male may be able to. They aren’t able to jump into meetings, events, and other things that perhaps would help them learn and grow. They simply can’t build the same type of relationship solely because of their gender.
I had never thought about this in this way or from this angle but it really does put women at a disadvantage. The natural weakness of Mike Pence and his honorable attempts to address it actually put men at an advantage and women at a disadvantage in his sphere of influence unintentionally. There are probably a variety of ways to address this in other more equitable ways. Hearing this perspective actually stretched my own thinking. I had always seen it through Mike’s eyes because I am also a man with a somewhat similar worldview. I can appreciate how easy it is to be influenced or distracted by an attractive female. It can easily cloud otherwise sound judgment and it has happened to plenty of politicians and leaders before him. That said, with an expanded perspective I have a lot less admiration for his approach and feel that there may be other ways to address his own challenges without pushing his weakness onto those who have done nothing wrong. I can certainly see the other side of the argument and I think an alternative approach would be worth seeking.
Coming back to the verses in Timothy, Paul was basically taking a bit of a Mike Pence approach when he wrote, “treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters.” He didn’t say to treat older women with purity. He didn’t say to treat men with purity. He specifically brought this up in dealing with young women whom he implied were more appealing and risky. At some level, he probably even meant ‘attractive’ women. While I do think treating women with purity is important, simply saying that and calling it out seems to be a bit objectifying. We shouldn’t have to say that. Nor should we do that. As Christians, treating everyone with respect and care is a must. We have to do better! Nobody should be put at a disadvantage because we can’t control our own sinful desires. Instead of trying to organize our world around our weaknesses we should lean into Jesus and allow him to address those very weaknesses within us and bring us the strength that is needed to overcome them.
While I think it is extremely wise to be careful in the areas we know we’re weak, we need to also be working to live the verses above when it comes to dealing with and relating to other people. Everyone deserves to be treated with love and respect. We are called to love our neighbor and part of that love is showing respect. As a Christian man and a Christian leader, I can’t pick and chose how that is shown. I need to take to hear these verses in Timothy and treat everyone with respect and care because that is exactly what Jesus did.