Assuming Evil Intent
Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. 1 Timothy 5:1
Whenever someone tailgates me while driving, I assume evil intent. I imagine he (or she) is doing it simply to annoy me because he’s the kind of person who finds joy in being a jerk to everyone. If I believe that this individual is purposefully acting out of malice, then it’s easier for me to dislike him, think terrible things about him, and wish evil upon him. I can get myself pretty worked up just by one tailgating encounter on the way to work.
I’ve noticed something though. I’ve occasionally found myself tailgating. When I’ve done so, I’ve never been acting out of malevolence. I just wasn’t paying attention. I’ve also ridden with others who tailgate. They too, appear to simply be driving, oblivious to the fact that they might be irritating the people in front of them. Never have I actually witnessed myself or others to be tailgating out of some effort to intimidate or terrorize another driver. In fact, usually, when the tailgater passes me and I look over to see this sinister driver, he or she looks like a member of my own family. In those situations, I’m always glad that I didn’t give in to my impulsive desire to honk angrily or shake my fist at the lady who looks like she could be my mother.
In today’s passage, Paul instructed Timothy to adopt such a view. He told Timothy to treat others as he would treat members of his own family. When an older man failed or offended, Paul commanded Timothy not to treat him harshly, but to treat him as he would his own father. When interacting with a young woman, he said to treat her with purity as a sister.
Adopting this mindset radically changes how I see those around me. Instead of assuming evil intent and wishing evil in return on those who irritate me, I find myself extending grace. It’s much more difficult to think terrible things of others when I view them as a parent, sibling, or child.
Most of us struggle with grace, love, and pure thoughts. Often, we surrender to our dark side when considering those around us. It’s just easier that way. If they’re bad, then we feel justified in indulging in our angry, hateful thoughts. If though, as Paul suggested, we think of others as members of our own family, then we begin to see them as people whom we should love. In regarding those around us as family, we trade hate, lust, jealousy, and anger for love, purity, joy, and grace.