1Ti 5:1-4 “Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity. Honour widows that are widows indeed. But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.”
We might be tempted to read the opening verse of this chapter as though Paul was telling us that ministers should not be corrected. However, if we consider the contrast Paul makes here between “elder” and “younger” men, it should become clear to us that he is speaking of age rather than office. When we consider the many instructions and corrections that Paul wrote about, it should also be clear that he was not saying that elders never need to be corrected. Instead, he is setting forth here the manner of rebuke.
We should never approach an older brother with an attitude of chastisement or punishment. At this writing, my earthly father is ninety-three years old, and I am sixty-eight years old. Like most men, we have not always agreed on everything. However, my love for him does not allow me to offer him a sharp rebuke, even if I fear something he is contemplating might actually bring him physical harm. Instead, I approach him in love and concern, reasoning with him about these decisions.
Although I was never blessed with natural brothers, I have been blessed with men that are like brothers to me. While I have tried to be respectful to the wonderful men in my life, I am not always as careful in my word choices with them as I am my father. Thankfully, they treat me in kind. The key is for it always to be done in love and concern.
For most of us, mothers are on a whole different level than other people. They are the ones who seem to feel our hurts the deepest. They are always ready to defend us but not afraid to chasten us if the situation warrants it. We should show our older sisters the same loving deference as we would show our natural mothers.
While I never had natural brothers, I am blessed to have natural sisters. Even if we were, at times, at odds with each other, I was always ready to defend them from the bad behavior of others. As we have gotten older, it still hurts my feelings when I cannot shield them from pain and sorrow, regardless of the source. Our feeling towards our younger sisters in the church should always be one of protection.
We should prize (honor) our true widows. They have lost loving companions; they may be bereft of care. Often, they continue to care for others out of the deep well of compassion born of their own griefs. We should gladly see to the needs of these dear saints and relieve their suffering at every opportunity.
If a widow has children or other close family (nephews), it is becoming to the family to show proper love and respect for their widow. They should be at the front of the line when it comes to giving care and relieving distress. We should be encouraging them to do so. We should be teaching that this is good and acceptable before God. However, if they fail in this responsibility, it does not relieve us of the injunction to honor our widows.
May we always be thankful to God that His care for us extends to instructing us on how to care for each other!