Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek.2 The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 3 Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.
Circumcised for a Good Cause
Mixed marriages can lead to both problems and opportunities. They can dilute the truth because only half of the house pulls that way, and they can allow for a broader perspective because both parents view life differently. I was raised by a believing mother and an agnostic father. They viewed life quite differently. My father would try and cut corners by throwing me over the barrier at the London Underground so he wouldn’t have to buy a ticket. My mother would play worship songs on the stereo when my father was not at home.
We don’t know why a Jewish woman was married to a Gentile man. It is possible that she didn’t have much choice in the matter, but Timothy, like Paul was ideally positioned to communicate a true faith to the Gentiles. He knew the faith of the Jews from his mother and he knew the truth of Greek learning from his father’s culture. However, he still needed to accommodate those who thought he wasn’t devoted to God enough. Jewish Christians at this time still preferred for people to be circumcised. Timothy’s mother had obviously not been able to carry out that rite, so now that Timothy is entering adulthood he is circumcised and so identifies himself with Christianity’s Jewish roots.
Timothy himself becomes an illustration of the fusion of the old with the new. The traditions are upheld, but the new teaching of Jesus Christ is built upon that foundation.
Would we be willing to go through physical pain and have a non-essential rite performed in order to avoid causing any offence to more traditional followers of Jesus? Are we all willing to give a little for the greater cause of unity?
Help me to see areas where I cause offence. Help me not to be defensive, even when others’ observation of my conduct cause a little pain. We all need to grow and sometimes we need to sacrifice a little in order to maintain unity. Help us to make sacrifices.
- With whom did Paul want to work?
- What strengths did Paul’s new companion bring to the team?
- What did the new companion lack?
- With whom do you minister?
- How do you need to adapt to preserve unity?