“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.”
(1Timothy 5:1-2 ESV)
As we focused on the Sixth Commandment yesterday, we noted the adulterous attitudes and intentions found within our heart. We heard the words of Jesus in Matthew 5, where he says that, by looking lustfully at someone, we’ve already committed adultery in our heart. So we break the Commandment by not only having an illicit sexual relationship, but also by the desires of our heart.
This makes the Sixth Commandment seem like an impossible standard. And, indeed, it is. We learn from this Commandment that we are all guilty and deserving of the wrath of God. We learn that we’d be lost forever were it not for Jesus, who was born into the world that he might atone for our sin.
However, as Christians, this can be a real struggle. After all, we desire to live for the Lord. And, for this reason, we may do a good job of remaining outwardly pure. But the desires of the heart can continue to plague us even as we refrain from extramarital sexual activity.
It’s easy for us to look at others inappropriately. It’s easy for us to entertain impure thoughts about others. And it can be exceedingly difficult for us to keep a handle on these desires.
In the above passage, the apostle Paul says something that can help us maintain not only outward purity, but also purity of the heart. He tells us how we’re to regard others. He tells us that we’re to look at one another as family.
As a young boy, if someone found my sister attractive, I would’ve responded with one word: “Yuck!” I’m not saying that I found her ugly. But she’s my sister. And, because she’s my sister, I could never look at her in that way. I could never think of her in that way.
This is the thought behind Paul’s words as he tells us how to interact with one another. We’re to treat older men as though they were our father. We’re to treat younger men as brothers. We’re to treat older women as mothers. And we’re to regard younger women as sisters. He then adds: “…in all purity.”
If we, as men, regarded women as mothers and sisters, we would think of them in a way that’s pure. We would not continually look at them in a sexual way. In fact, we’d do all that we could to guard their purity. And the same thing is true in reverse. If women looked at men as fathers and brothers, they too would have an easier time maintaining pure thoughts.
As you read this, some of you may wonder: If we do this, if we think in this way, then how are people to become attracted to one another, pursue one another, and enter into a healthy marital relationship? Attraction is a vital part of this process. If our thoughts about others were purely platonic, we’d have no marriages or children.
I’m not suggesting it’s wrong to notice that someone is attractive. However, even as we date, and even as we pursue marriage, we should look upon each other in a respectful way. We must recognize that sexual thoughts and intentions are appropriate only to marriage.
Our desire for one another, whether we are single and dating or married, should be for the other person’s relationship with God. We should do nothing that might hinder that relationship. And we must do all we can to encourage it.
So again, as we interact with people, we must strive to look upon them as family. If our thoughts stray in an inappropriate way, we should remind ourselves that this person is our brother or sister. And, believing this to be the case, we should treat them as such.