Gregory the Great wrote a classic in the sixth century that is still used for pastoral training today. In his Pastoral Rule, he outlines 34 types of people in the church and how a pastor must minister to them in different ways. One shoe size will not fit all feet.
There are different categories of people in church—old and young, men and women, well-educated and illiterate, rich and poor, married and single or divorced or widowed. In many places, there are also different ethnic and language groups. Ministry to each and everyone in the church must therefore be done with great care and sensitivity. Whatever the differences may be, there are some basic principles and values that must be observed in all relationships in church. Paul spells them out, illustrating them with some of the different categories of church members.
Firstly, respect. How should Timothy instruct older men? Age is not a barrier to the ministry of the Word. When older men are wrong, they need to be rebuked, but not in a harsh tone. When they are faltering, they need to be exhorted. In doing all these, Timothy must show respect (Leviticus 19:32; 1 Peter 2:17), the kind a son shows his father (v.1). Scripture commands us to honour our parents (Exodus 20:12).
Secondly, love. Timothy is to love younger men as brothers (v.1). He should not bully or abuse them.
Third, purity. Timothy is to consider all women (v.2) as either mothers (older women) or sisters (younger women). This is necessary if his life is to have “absolute purity” (v.2).
These three attitudes are necessary in all our relationships. They represent the godliness that arises from a Christ-like character. They prevent one from becoming arrogant, indifferent, or lustful. We must also notice how Paul describes the various relationships in terms of family relationships: fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters. We are challenged to think of the church as a family and to treat fellow believers as our own family members. This is how we ought to conduct ourselves in “God’s household” (1 Timothy 3:15). Then, others will believe that the gospel is true and able to completely change people and communities.
Paul moves from “honour” (1 Timothy 5:3 ESV) to “double honour” (v.17) to “all honour” (6:1 ESV). How can respect and honour be given to fellow believers?
The opposite of love is indifference. How can Christians truly love one another with absolute purity? Why is thinking of others as family members helpful?