So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
2 Timothy 2:22
Just a heads up – I’m piggybacking onto Julie’s post from yesterday, “22 Things I Would Tell My 22 Year Old Self.” If you haven’t read it yet, you REALLY need to! As I read through her list, I found myself nodding in agreement to nearly all of her points! Sadly, I learned these 22 little nuggets of wisdom the hard way. But better late than never, right?
In 2 Timothy, Paul encourages his “son in the faith” to “flee youthful passions.” Note that he doesn’t just say to “refrain” from them. Rather, he uses the word “flee.” Merriam-Webster has two definitions for this word:
a. to run away often from danger or evil
b. to hurry toward a place of security
Society values youth. Culture worships it. If you’re young, you can be anyone you want, do anything you want, have anything you want – life is yours for the taking. The search for anti-aging skin care products and a cure for male pattern baldness is never-ending. Until time travel becomes a real thing, botoxing and face-lifting will just have to do. The goal? To be “forever young.”
But reading 2 Timothy 2:22 makes me think we’ve got things backwards. Have we become so focused on preserving our youth that we’ve forgotten how essential growth is? No one wants an infant to stay an infant forever, right? I mean, yeah – they’re super cute and all. But at some point, I’m sure the parents would really like to get more than just a couple hours of sleep every night. And who wants to be on diaper duty perpetually? Yeah. No one.
And what are “youthful passions?” It’s good to be passionate about things, isn’t it? No one likes hanging out with a bum who just sits around all day doing nothing. You have to do stuff, enjoy stuff, work for stuff, fight for stuff – that’s what being a young person is all about, right? So why does the Bible tell us to flee from these things?
Well, I think it’s because as young people, we’re naturally turned up to the highest volume. We rocket launch ourselves into everything, we love with our whole heart, we fight with everything in us. Youthful passions are regular-people-passions on steroids.
Think about it.
Why do you see high school girls eating ice cream right out of the carton after a breakup? Why do you see twenty-something year old guys working their tales off for their dream car? As young people, we don’t always possess the ability to tame our passions. Often, we let them consume us. We let the world tell us it’s okay to be foolish with our hearts, our money, our time, our decisions, because that’s the cool/romantic/legend-worthy thing to do.
Now let me ask this question: How many of us are passionate about pursuing righteousness, faith, love, and peace as Paul suggested? Okay yeah, we all desire those things. But are we passionate about pursuing them? Most likely not. Odds are, we’re more passionate about pursuing academic honors, professional success, affirmation from our family/peers, and a more exciting relationship status. These aren’t bad things to want. But that’s just it – they’re “wants” not “needs.” We WANT to be successful. We WANT to be popular. We WANT to be married. But we don’t need any of those things. Those things should never be our driving force. Ever.
But righteousness, faith, love, and peace? Yeah, those are things we NEED. It doesn’t matter if we want them or not – we are in dire need of them. If we don’t have faith, we don’t have hope. If we don’t have love, we don’t have peace. If we don’t have righteousness, we don’t have a relationship with God. And what is life without a relationship with the One who IS life? We NEED these things. And in our desperate need, the Lord graciously provides. He clothes us in His righteousness, He grows our faith, He loves us with an everlasting love, He gives us peace unlike anything we’ve experienced on this earth. He graciously gives us these things so that we can pursue them all the more.
Paul tells us to flee youthful passions and pursue the things above, the things that count. Because those are the things that will give us the strength to survive in this world – those are the things we need. Our youthful passions are great! They’re what make being young so fun! But we shouldn’t let those things be the driving force in our lives. He is our source of everlasting life, love, joy, peace, and hope. All the money in the world, the best job on the planet, the highest academic honors, the so-perfect-they’re-almost-too-perfect spouse, and the family of 8 perfectly behaved children could never fulfill us. He fills us and fulfills us to maximum capacity, and then some. Strive for the best this life has to offer, work hard and live well. But don’t get it twisted: the youthful passions of love, power, money, and success should never outweigh our passion to serve, love, and honor the Lord.
When we “flee” from our youthful passions, we are running away from evil, danger, disaster, and running towards our place of security: the Most High, our dwelling place. When we pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with pure hearts, we’re not just staying away from evil, but propelling ourselves further into Him! When our “youthful passions” become synonymous with pursuing “righteousness, faith, love, and peace,” we can joyfully allow this passion for Him to consume us.
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:7
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
1 Timothy 4:12