The apostle Paul, when preparing the young man Timothy for his ministrations in the ecclesia at Ephesus, counselled him: “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” (1 Tim 5:1–2). It was inevitable that such service would bring Timothy into close contact with a wide variety of members. In such endeavours he was to show respect for age and the proprieties of life. He was to be mild, gentle and affectionate, showing understanding, compassion as well as dignity with kindliness as he encouraged his fellow brethren and sisters to a holiness of life (1 Tim 4:12).

Understanding human nature, Paul knew the dangers for a young brother such as Timothy, when admonishing and entreating and encouraging youthful females or sisters. In all times and circumstances there must not be the slightest departure from purity and propriety. He was therefore to guard his heart with more than common vigilance, and was to indulge in no word, or look, or action, which could by any possibility be construed as an improper state of feeling. To manifest prudence and godly integrity in the ecclesia, and at home, is an essential element of brotherly and sisterly relationships.

With All Purity

“Purity” is a moral and ethical term that relates to the state of mind, heart and action. The Greek word translated “purity” (hagneia, cleanliness or chastity) only occurs in this noun form in 1 Timothy 4:12 and 5:2. In both cases it relates to the godly integrity that befits ministers of the gospel (2 Cor 6:6). Purity which involves self-control (1 Pet 1:13), is a freedom from the falsehoods and pollutions of man’s life. It is a manifestation of Yahweh’s holiness and indicates that one has a right relationship with God (2 Tim 2:21–22; Tit 1:15).

Purity is derived from God, for He is holy (Lev 19:2; 1 Pet 1:15–16), and all His words are pure (Prov 30:5–6). His wisdom that descends from above is first pure (James 3:17), while His commandments are also pure, opening the eyes (Psa 19:8), and by them a young man may “cleanse his ways” (Psa 119:9).

When serving alongside young girls and sisters in the ecclesia, a respectful, gentle and becoming demeanour ought to inspire confidence that, despite the morally unsavoury world around, they can be safe, secure and cared for in God’s house. In human relationships respect begets respect, while a loose and careless way will result in the opposite.

The Changing Values of Young People in This World

In a recent media publication, a descriptive profile of today’s youth provided an insight into the culture of 21st century youth. In brief they have become known as the lost tribe of our teens, and may be described as follows:

  • They are adrift in a world of choices without a moral compass to guide them
  • They take their cues of right and wrong from their friends instead of their parents
  • Friends are their second family, exceeding the importance of their blood ties
  • Many teens and young adults are growing up as ‘spiritual anorexics’ with no grounding values to guide them. They are empty vessels who learn how to behave by observing others and living vicariously

With the prevalence of fractured families children learn to rely on mates for support, while their anxious parents seek to be their ‘best buddy’ instead of the rule-setters who say “no”

Defeated parents unable to exercise discipline have their power usurped by their child’s increasingly influential peers who live in a world with few boundaries

Time poor parents do not talk over life’s ethical dilemmas with their confused teens

Parents of this generation were the first to walk away en masse, from organised religion

Teenagers of today have no sense of meaning, purpose or belonging, and along with their peers have a flexible, option-riddled morality.

The apostle Paul described this as living amidst “a crooked and perverse generation”. However, our young people in the ecclesia are special, and we would that they “shine as lights in the world”, as the children of God (Phil 2:15). The importance of our daughters is reflected in the symbology of Revelation 21:2 and 19:7, for they are to be fitted for a destiny of glory, honour and immortality. They are truly “the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus” unto holiness and good works (Eph 2:10; Tit 2:14).

Building Now for the Future

While we are strangers and pilgrims in this world (Heb 11:13), we have a strong hope with clearly defined and powerful objectives. Our young people are not aimless, lost or without a moral compass in this world. Their Bible knowledge, conviction and faith are as electricity in their lives, providing a power to answer the challenges that would otherwise defile their moral integrity (Psa 119:105). In all our behaviour, whether publicly, privately or within the ecclesia, we must consciously keep the finishing line before us. Seeing “the invisible”, the “things which are eternal” (2 Cor 4:17–18; Heb 12:2) will provide motivation for a higher form of thinking and response. Our lives now are a training ground for the future (Rev 2:25–26; 3:19–20), and all things work together for the good of those that love and fear Yahweh (Rom 8:28).

Unlike the parents of this world who prefer to be ‘buddies’ and not counsellors we, should look to protect our young and to foster spiritual growth in harmony with our goals. In Deuteronomy 6:1–9 Yahweh reveals that unity, love, harmony and conviction of a spiritual relationship with Him, and which is developed in the family circle. This is a living forum where family members shield each other from compromising behaviours through the power of example, and by exhibiting “a pattern of good works” (Tit 2:7–8).

Avoiding Distractions and Competing Interests

In “working out our salvation” (Phil 2:12), temptation will present itself, and answers will be needed. The weapons of our spiritual warfare must be engaged (Eph 6:14–15), knowing that they are “not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds” (2 Cor 10:4–6).

We must be aware of the sins which will exclude one from the Kingdom of God. These we read of in 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, and involve moral perversity to which human nature is prone. Bearing these things in mind, our best defence is to cultivate a unity of mind, striving together in our families and ecclesia to make the wise decisions. Let us be aware of the impact that the lawlessness of the electronic media can have on us. These distractions challenge our loyalty to Yahweh. Remember that His saints will soon destroy these things.

In Genesis 34:1–2 Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah, “went out to see the daughters of the land”, and as a result Shechem, the son of Hamor the Hivite, lay with her and defiled her. Afterwards Jacob’s sons were protective of their sister (v13), but had they been more vigilant they may have prevented this happening. Mingling with the social culture of the world is to take fire into one’s bosom, and surely there will be a burning (Prov 6:27). What are needed are family ‘firemen’, who can extinguish the dangers by a watchful eye, tactful counsel and guiding support.

Preventing Unnecessary Dangers

When managing young people in our families the apostle Paul warned of “provoking our children to wrath” (Eph 6:1–4). Such is a call to govern our families with godly wisdom in a practical balance. Unreasonable demands can beget extreme responses with tragic results.

Parents can protect their sons and daughters by being observant, offering helpful support and being aware of pressures they face. Parents should take up every opportunity to speak with their children so that they might know how they are thinking.

Integrity Within the Ecclesia

The apostle Paul described the ecclesia as “the house of God, the ecclesia of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). In simple terms it is an elect assembly of saints, in whom reside the virtues of the Father. Think of the noblest of moral virtues and they are those that should live within us all. What better example, other than our Lord Jesus Christ, is there of integrity and purity than that of Boaz, a well-to-do land owner in the town of Bethlehem? One spring day he went to his barley field where his servants were reaping the harvest. He noticed behind them a comely young woman who was gleaning the scattered ears left behind by the reapers. By enquiry he learned that she was Ruth, a young widow who had recently arrived from Moab. He told her to continue gleaning in his fields and assured her of safety and provisions.

At the end of the harvest, after the usual feasting, Boaz spent the night on the winnowing floor. Ruth, at the advice of Naomi her mother-in-law, dressed in her best clothes and went to lie at the feet of the sleeping Boaz, intending to raise the issue of her family redemption. She asked him humbly in the darkness of the night to spread the edge of his cloak over her, as she was a near relative. Concerned that she should be seen with him, Boaz sent Ruth back to Naomi before the dawn with a cloak full of grain. Boaz, was a man of influence and wealth and knowing the attractive young widow was vulnerable in such circumstances, acted with the greatest of propriety. Ruth without a doubt was inspired by his uprightness. Such is a commendable example in the ecclesia, where all our young and old should feel safe and cared for. This is the “purity” that was enjoined upon Timothy as he was to serve alongside the young sisters in the Ephesian ecclesia.

What Shall We Say?

Contrary to the way of the world, Yahweh has blessed many of us with families within the ecclesia, having the hope of becoming in the future a kingdom of priests to reign over the earth. Instead of abuses, dysfunction, anguish, desperation and rejection, we have a recipe for the “peace that passes all understanding” (Phil 4:7).

We have been called to “walk with our God”, but our sojourn is touched by life’s realities, a world dead in trespasses and sins. While things “common to man” have existed in every age, never has there been a technological era where the world can penetrate within our personal realm. When dealing with our brethren and sisters, it is necessary to be aware of the circumstances that may prevail. Values and standards have been greatly confused in the world (Isa 5:20), and can easily be absorbed into our family and ecclesial life. However, this confidence we do have, that “our God is able to work in us both to will and to do his good pleasure”. He can deliver us from all temptation and evil, provided we hold fast the word of life.

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phil 4:8).