Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.1 Timothy 5:1-2
Hidden in that verse is another one of those profound psychological insights so frequently found in Scripture, which says that the way you treat people depends on how you see them. In the world, almost everyone falls into the category of a rival who is trying to beat the competition or a friend who can be used to get ahead. As Christians, however, we are to have a very different view of other people. Paul tells this young pastor to look at older men as he would look at his own father: to view them as men with some degree of experience, men who have survived crises in their lives, men who have developed a certain degree of understanding and wisdom.
Further, Paul tells Timothy to view young men as though they were his brothers. Again, this reminds Timothy that there is a family relationship involved. Young men are not his rivals, his enemies; they are his brothers. A brotherly relationship implies openness and honesty with one another with respect and concern for each other. When a young man sees other young men as brothers, he will treat them as such.
Paul tells Timothy to treat the older women as mothers. I remember various older women who were like mothers to me when I was a young man. As a result, I learned to treat them with great respect for the wisdom and love they manifested to me.
Paul then tells Timothy that a young pastor should treat younger women as sisters--with love, with interest and concern, but certainly without any attempts at sexual involvement. That is why Paul adds the words,
with absolute purity. A young pastor is to be pure in his intentions, his attitudes, and his dealings with the younger women in a congregation. There would be nothing wrong with Timothy's developing a romantic relationship that might eventually lead to marriage with a young woman in the congregation, but Paul is simply reminding him that the normal relationship of a young pastor to young women is that of a brother who is helping them, seeking to understand them.
Thank You, Lord, that when You called me You placed me in a family. Teach me to view others around me as fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers in Christ.
Healthy relationships mandate mutual respect. Are we diligent to see others as persons for whom Christ died? Do we respect God's prerogative in everyone's life?