If Timothy had Instagram... (Part 1)
“Avoid the idle talk, post what really matters.”
Timothy was so sold out for Jesus that when Paul invited him to go on his first mission trip, he agreed to the most extreme mission prep ever - getting circumcised! They traveled together everywhere and saw a lot of people come to Jesus. Paul would often ask him to stay behind and take care of the new church plants.
Timothy could have been a social media ninja. He was good at building relationships, so when he came to town, everyone would have started following him on Instagram.
Paul cared very much about Timothy, calling him a “true son in the faith,” so he wrote letters to him, encouraging him in what he was doing for Jesus. These were public messages, and they would circulate the churches in the region - so it was kind of like Paul writing to Timothy on his wall instead of through his inbox, giving him life lessons right there on his public profile.
For Paul and Timothy, nothing was more important than the message of Jesus, His death and resurrection. Paul encouraged Timothy to stand strong in that truth, especially because many people at the time were teaching false ideas about Jesus, arguing over all kinds of subjects that were becoming major distractions.
Social media thrives today because it responds to a deeply felt need we have to be heard and to find our identities. We don’t know who we are anymore and we don’t know what to believe. We’re told there’s no absolute truth and that no one really knows the answers to the big questions, which leaves us with nothing but our own opinions. So, we spend hours watching and reading other people’s thoughts, and voicing our opinion on anything that comes through our feed. Deep down, we’re trying to find ourselves, but it’s like looking into an abyss.
People on “Timothy’s feed” were spending all their time “giving heed to fables”… “causing disputes” … “turning to idle talk”… “desiring to be teachers, but understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.” (1Tim1:3-7). Paul told Timothy to teach sound doctrine and avoid the idle talk. Timothy was called to stand firm, to be a man of the Word, an example, someone who could point to Jesus and not join in the disputes. This is great advice for us in our social media culture today.
The motivation for Timothy to do this was “love from a pure heart, from good conscience and from sincere faith” (1Tim1:5). In a context of confusion, arguments, and distractions, Timothy was to stand firm in talking about the things that really matter, about the love and life we find in Jesus.
How can we do this today? I don’t suggest we constantly preach at people, filling our walls with verses and sermons. But it certainly challenges us to not waste our time on endless debates, and to resist the selfish yearning for attention or trying to find our identities in a superficial social media profile. It’s a refreshing call to “hold on to faith and a good conscience” (1Tim1:19) in midst the striving and disputing.
Social media presents a huge opportunity today to communicate truth with a broader public reach than ever before. I don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface of the potential this offers for sharing the Gospel on the global stage. Maybe if we were less distracted, we’d discern the strategies that are on God’s heart for this connected generation to hear of the hope we have in Jesus.