Paul or not, 2 Timothy reads like the letter of an older, wiser man to a young friend, as Paul prepares to pass on the baton of ministry. In fact, this feels to me more like an older version of the same Paul who wrote the earlier letters than does 1 Timothy.
2 Timothy 1:3-7 are a touching insight into Paul’s care for Timothy, but also a glimpse into the early days of Christianity as a movement with an earthly as well as a heavenly future.
I am grateful to God—whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did—when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.
Timothy is the first person to be addressed as (apparently) a ‘cradle Christian’ – one brought up in a Christian family, with the influence of his grandmother and mother. For the countless millions who’ve grown up with faith down the generations since, he stands as a reminder that sudden conversion isn’t the only or standard ‘Biblical’ way to faith. He also reminds us that we all owe our faith to the influence and example of those who’ve influenced us along the journey that has led us to where we are.
But Timothy’s example also reminds us that a faith in which we grow up still has to lead to a personal and living discipleship. Paul calls Timothy to ‘rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands’ and to serve with confident self-discpline. Lois and Eunice have given Timothy a precious foundation in faith. Paul has confirmed that through prayer. Timothy has the responsibility to live it out with God’s Spirit.
So perhaps a question for all of us, whether (like me) adult converts or (like many) lifelong believers is this – how did I get to this point in faith, and where am I going next?
Perhaps Lois and Eunice pose us another question – what am I doing to help the next generation and the one after that to grow up in the faith I have received? What could I do?