Don't let anyone look down to you because of your _________.
Last night I read through Paul's "first" letter to Timothy and was struck by a popular verse. It's a fairly straightforward letter; Paul is extending instructions to Timothy on leading people spiritually; he is telling Timothy how to establish a church. That is a complex task.
Tucked away in this letter, however, Paul gives Timothy a word of personal instruction. The letter primarily consists of instructions on how to lead others, but in the fourth chapter, Paul turns his attention to Timothy and says:
Let me immediately say, you do not have to be "youth" for this to apply to you. If you are still reading you are witnessing a profound truth that speaks to all generations on every niche on the chronological line of life. Paul is telling Timothy that you are not defined by the circumstances of your life, but by what you do with it.
This is crucial. It doesn't matter if you are young. It doesn't matter if you are old. It doesn't matter if you are handicapped. It doesn't matter if you think you are too fat or too skinny. It doesn't matter if you are socially awkward or have a stutter. It doesn't matter if your wrinkles are expanding or if your wife found a bald spot on your head last night (sigh). While these things are a part of who you are and should be embraced, these are not definitions of you.
Here is what matters: (here is what defines you)
1) how you use your words. Are you a person of encouragement or banter? Do you talk bad about people behind their backs or say something positive to their face? What words do you use to define yourself? Our words are the vessels for what is living in our hearts.
2) how you present yourself. Are you perceived by others as lazy, or do you have a drive in your actions? Do you hold the door open for the elderly, or rush past because you don't want to get stuck behind them? Your conduct (presentation) not only speaks volumes about you, but about your relationship with God and others.
3) how you love. Is love a word you use to get what you want, or something that you do? Do you love others because you know you should, or do you love others because it is who you are? Our greatest commands were to love God and to love others. There is no other word that should define who we are than the word love.
4) how you live out your faith. Have you taken ownership of your faith or are you still living out the faith of your parents or your tradition? Do people in your life even know that you have a faith in God? Faith is extremely personal. It is OUR relationship with God, and it takes on different shapes and forms throughout our life. Faith is something that is lived out by everything we do.
5) how is your purity? Purity is not limited to just sexual activity. How clean are our from the imperfections of this world? You will not be spotless on your own, but what are you doing in your life to become a little more pure every day?
It is easy to get caught up in the definitions of the world. Personally, my age is a concrete, and often blinding, quality of my life. I have to spend more time proving myself because of my "lack of experience." People keep me at an arms distance because they "know" I'll be leaving in just a few short years. I get to hear about the "golden years" from nearly every person that is two generations ahead of me.
I realize people have their own qualities that can be far more hurtful and degrading, and I am deeply sorry that the world defines you by these. However, that is not you. At least not the complete you.