2 Timothy 4:9-22
Relational realities in ministry, for the man of God
Paul aims at extrapolating for Timothy, the relational context in which the realities of ministry are always experienced, at least in principle. So, in the closing verses of this letter (9–22), he brings his young associate to speed on the spiritual condition, the activities and whereabouts of certain men and women who factor in his ministry. We get to hear the apostle’s heart as shaped by the grace of God under these inevitable realities.
Among such realities, we have the examples of those who hindered or helped Paul’s Gospel effort and there is way Paul felt about them. He expresses these feelings in a way which emphatically reminds us even today that relationships are the context, the content (in terms of persons) and the cause for ministry. Relationships assess our ministry motivation, evaluate our ministry priorities, determine our ministry structure or shape, formulate our interpersonal dynamic and give ministry its thrust and movement.
Since “a relationship” can be explained by how you feel about someone when you think about him or her, ministry is synonymous with relationships. Knowing people and being known by them becomes the interpersonal dynamic which serves as our gateway to receiving and giving ministry. The feelings left by any thoughts about someone are the shapers of ministry to them, they are the thrust of ministry by them or ministry alongside them in any given network. The feelings we have about people when we think about them give us the right wording in praying for them; give shape to our attitude and affection toward them, and resultantly affect everything we can call “ministry engagement or involvement”.
Now, as Paul writes this, he faces the ax that will soon cut off his head. So he urges Timothy to join him in Rome soon as he could, because the apostle did not expect to live much longer (2 Tim 4:6). And knowing that his life is about to end, there are people on his mind, feelings about them, and thus urgent instruction to Timothy regarding them. Paul is like an old coach turning over his team to a young coach who wants the young coach to know where everybody plays, so he can step in as the team leader with a minimum of trauma and difficulty.
Some of the people he mentions here (Timothy, Luke, and Mark) – he wants them to come and be with him in his last days for comfort, to assist him in the ministry he continues to do, and hear his final words. Some of those whom he mentions (Priscilla, Aquila, the family of Onesiphorus) – he just wants to greet, share his love and his concern because they are his friends. Some of them (Crescens, Titus, Tychicus, Erastus, and Trophimus) – he sent to serve in strategic places, to keep the Gospel work going. Some of the others he mentions (Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, Claudia) – are sending greetings to Timothy, as believers in the Roman church. And some of them (Demas, Alexander and a whole group of anonymous cowards) – he mentions because of the grief they brought him through desertion of ministry, opposition to the Gospel message, and lack of courage or boldness to publicly support him.
The Gospel message is the organizing principle for Paul’s relationships in his network – not his p