Reading: 2 Timothy 2:8-15
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David—that is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. The saying is sure:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he will also deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
he cannot deny himself.
Remind them of this, and warn them before the Lord that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.
Years ago, I saw a cartoon about a job interview that I’ve never forgotten. A teenager is asleep and dreaming about their upcoming job interview. In the dream, the interviewer asks about one of the job titles on her resumé. “Can you tell me more about this job as a….hydroceramic technician?”
Her dream-self responds: “Uhmmmm yes. Speaking professionally, that job was holding onto a ceramic food receptacle and removing the um…the uh…yicky stuff.”
“Yicky stuff?” says the interviewer.
The teenager bolts awake and races to her computer.
“Change hydroceramic technician back to ‘dishwasher’”
And she types away into the night.
We can really make a mess trying to make things sound more impressive than they are.
So, verse fourteen of this text sticks out to me quite a bit. “Remind them of this, and warn them before the Lord that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening.” The writer here isn’t saying not to care about words, but to avoid wrangling over them. Like maybe if we pay too much attention to the words of a prayer, we might miss that God is listening, with or without words. He also says, “the word of God is not chained.”
This makes me feel a kind of freedom. It reminds me of a favorite quote from Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Even more, God’s word being unchained reminds me that God is going to bring love into the world whether or not I said the exact right thing at the right time.
You might stumble over some words today or tomorrow or the day after that. You might even find yourself saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. But God shows up and brings grace in all its beauty, no matter what we say or do. God’s mercies are new every morning, like a clean slate. (A hydroceramicized slate? Nope. Scratch that.) Clean slate.
Thank you for all the ways you love us.
Help us remember your unchained word that shows up when our own words might fail us. Guide us into this day with your love and your grace.