"Cross my heart and hope to… what?" 1 Timothy 5:21aSep 24, 2023
I've got this picture in my mind, of a mother bending down in front of her little boy, taking both his hands in hers, looking deeply into his eyes, and saying, "Mommy and Daddy are going to be going out for a while, and I need you to promise that you will do whatever Auntie Mary tells you to do. She will be looking after you. And I promise you that if you do, you'll have fun with her. Will you promise that you'll have a good time?"
When Paul writes to Timothy, "I charge you," it's sort of like that..
21 I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.
"We are gathered here in the sight of God, and in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to join this man and this woman in holy matrimony, which has been sanctioned and blessed by Jesus Christ, and declared in Scripture to be honourable among all men."
I don't know how many times I've had the privilege of standing in front of a couple (most young, but not all), and addressing them and the family and friends who are present, as the two become one through the commitment to marriage.
"I exhort you both to enter into this new and holy relationship with reverent thought, honest intention, and in the fear of God, duly considering the purpose for which marriage has been ordained.
Exhortation is like encouragement on steroids. It's saying, "This is really serious, and you ought to take it seriously!" So seriously that before I would commit to officiating at a wedding ceremony, I insisted on meeting with the couple at least 4 times before making my decision. I always made it clear that my purpose was not to give them a nice wedding - it was to equip them to have a long-lasting, satisfying marriage. God created marriage as the union between one man and one woman for life (Genesis 1,2) as the basic building block of relationships throughout the entire world and forever - the family. We had been created in the image of God, both craving and requiring relationship - "Let us make man in our image" and "It is not good for man to be alone." Marriage is a sacred commitment which can never be taken lightly. As the officiant, this was my sacred duty to make clear to the couple, and to their family and friends.
Then, there was my legal responsibility, to satisfy the laws of the land by ensuring that the couple is legally entitled to become husband and wife. It wasn't my responsibility to hire an investigator to ascertain the truth. What was required was that I ask, and take them at their word, for example, that they are not currently married to anyone else.
I require and charge you both in the presence of God and of this congregation that if either of you know anything to prevent you from being lawfully married you do now declare it.
"I charge you." I need you to commit to God, me, your family and friends that what you are saying is true, and that you will follow through on it.
I remember a day when credit cards didn't exist. Yes, apparently, I am that old. And then, the cry of "Charge it!" entered our vocabulary
It doesn't just ask, "Can I trust you?" It's stating emphatically, "I am trusting you!"
Of course, these days we all have numerous "chargers" which we use to "charge" batteries in cell phones, tablets, laptops, ear buds, Fit-bits, watches - the list really is endless. I'd never thought about it before, but we charge these batteries because we trust that we will be able to use what they power when they have accepted the charge. Every once in a while, we learn that they aren't charged, and they prove to be useless. We have a couple of wireless chargers for our phones, and there have been days when I found out in the morning that I hadn't been careful enough in where I placed the phone the night before, and it wasn't charged at all.
Anyway, Paul charges Timothy - I am trusting you to keep these instructions. And in charging you, Timothy, I have witnesses. It's not just the family and friends at a wedding - it's God the Father, God the Son, and the elect angels.
Elect angels? See you next week!