Continuing yesterday’s discussion (thanks for the comments!), I want to give a good example of how our conversations are shaped by our current situation. Churches of Christ are part of the stream of belief that is called the Restoration Movement. The Restoration Movement flourished in the United States in the 19th century, and many of the doctrines that we hold were shaped around what was and wasn’t practiced in churches in general at that time (particularly Presbyterian and Baptist).
I know that idea is distasteful to many, which is why I want to offer an example. My colleague, Steve Ridgell, is doing a series of blog posts on gender roles in churches of Christ. Yesterday he brought something that is rarely discussed: the list of widows, as described in 1 Timothy 5.
“Honor widows who are truly widows.” (1 Timothy 5:3)
“Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.” (1 Timothy 5:9–10)
“If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are really widows.” (1 Timothy 5:16)
So there was to be a list of widows that would be honored and cared for by the church. (Context shows that this care includes financial support) These women were to be active in the church, and there seems to be an implication that they will be expected to continue to serve. Seemingly, according to verse 12, they made some sort of pledge of devotion to the church.
Do you know of any congregation that does this? Do you know of any congregation that has seriously discussed how to fulfill this?
My thought is that we are quick to dismiss this passage because it hasn’t been a part of our practice nor that of churches around us. We may talk about it out of curiosity, but few seek to practice it in any way, despite it meeting all of the standards that command-example-inference hermeneutics would demand.
Some would argue that the lack of clarity on the exact practice is what limits us, but shouldn’t that merely be a call for further study and investigation as to what Paul is talking about?
We don’t practice it because nobody practices it. Which means our beliefs come less from the Word than from the beliefs of those around us.
Or am I missing something?
photo by Ariadna on www.morguefile.com