The Holy Spirit has been having a particular passage resonate in my spirit of a number of days now. It is found in the Apostle Paul’s first letter to one he considered his son in the faith – Timothy. The passage is 1 Timothy 1:3-7.
“Even as I charged you to remain in Ephesus while I went into Macedonia, so that you might exhort certain ones to not teach different things, not to give heed to myths and endless genealogies, which produce speculations rather than the dispensation of God which is in faith. But the end of the charge is love from a pure heart and from a good conscience and from a sincere faith, from which things some, having mis-aimed, have turned aside to vain things, desiring to be teachers of the law, though they understand neither the things that they say, nor concerning what they confidently affirm.”
Why is having a goal, or a desired end or result in mind, so important? Because that is how we know if we are on the right track because we are seeing the goal produced.
Paul has left Timothy in Ephesus. Now, this is the time after Paul has been released from prison in Rome and before he is rearrested and then eventually martyred for Christ. Before he left, he gave to Timothy the charge to make sure that those who were teaching in Ephesus were teaching the pure gospel and not something else. He knew this danger existed. That’s why he gave Timothy that charge before he left.
Paul tells Timothy that the goal of his ministry, his teaching and his life, is having love developed in people. That is the goal of the Gospel – to have love developed in people, a love that is demonstrated to others around them in ever-increasing measure. That’s the reason why Paul says a love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. Timothy’s teaching was to produce that good heart, to produce that good conscience, to produce that sincere faith, but always in connection with that person showing love to those around them in ever-increasing measure. If the love didn’t happen, how that pure heart, that good conscience, and that sincere faith were produced must be examined.
This end, this goal, I need to keep in the front of my mind. It is how everything I do needs to be measured and evaluated.
And not just me. Everyone who is a pastor or leader in a congregation must also have this goal. They must also evaluate and measure what they do in light of this goal.
And, frankly, there are occurrences, some about which we read in the news, where a person’s response to how they have been taught has not led to love from a pure heart or from a good conscience or from a sincere faith. It has led them to think that a pure heart or a good conscience or a sincere faith is a be all and end all.
They are not. If they do not lead to love, they aren’t worth much. They are only a step to the real goal – love.
The ability to and demonstration of love by those entrusted to my care is the goal by which I must evaluate and measure the charge I have been given.