Paul stresses family ties several times in this section. Timothy needs to treat the members of the church in Ephesus like he would treat his own family: “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity”(1 Tim 5:1-2). Older men deserve the respect of a father, not to be rebuked. Mothers, brothers, and sisters speak to a unique tenderness and closeness, but Paul insists that Timothy maintains these relationships “in all purity.” Christians are a family and we should bring the best of the family dynamic to our interactions with one another.
He also advises Timothy to be judicious in what the church does regarding widows. “Honor widows who are truly widows. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God”(1 Tim 5:3-4). Families are the primary caretakers for their own. Christians should be taught to repay their parents by caring for them in their old age. “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever”(1 Tim 5:8). These are extremely strong words. Those who do not respect family bonds are not following Jesus.
It is clear that God has expectations about family—that we will love our families, treat our family members with a certain tenderness, and that we will care for them when they are in need. All of these facts influence how a local church works. Not everyone has an ideal family life, but we can all love our brothers and sisters like family and honor our parents.
------------- One Thing to Think About: Do I treat my brothers and sisters like family?
One Thing to Pray For: Loving families—both physical and spiritual