(See The story of a Bible study for the start of this story)
“What’s next?” Dave said.
It was the last night of our study of Nehemiah. My friends and I had been talking about the conversations I had with Nehemiah. It was a challenging study. We looked differently at the book, at the Old Testament, at ways to read the Bible. But it was time to think about the next study.
“I’ve been thinking about 2 Timothy,” I said.
“Seriously,” Ed asked. “Isn’t that mostly for pastors? I can understand why you would like it, but I’m not planning to ever be a church leader.”
I smiled. “I didn’t plan to be a pastor either, but that’s not why I suggested it.”
“Isn’t that one of Paul’s letters?” Sue said. “I’m really not comfortable with him at all.”
Paul’s got a sketchy reputation in part of our group. His writings have been used as the basis for some awful things that have hurt people in our group. I knew that, but I thought that it was time to face that struggle.
“I understand your reticence,” I said. “But 2 Timothy is a little less combative that Paul’s other letters. It’s less like a polemic and more like the last lecture of a teacher to his favorite student, a master carpenter to his apprentice.”
“But isn’t that like saying we should study some racist’s last words just because he’s doesn’t use the bad words?”
I was stuck. I didn’t want to force anything on the group.
Phil finally spoke. “Sue, I understand. But if we skip anything by Paul, we end up skipping a lot of the Bible. What if we simply focus on understanding what he’s actually saying to Timothy? After we understand, we can decide whether he’s as bad as the people who use-or misuse-his words.”
Sue and I looked at each other.
“I’ll do everything I can to focus on explaining,” I said. “I want to understand his words on the merits of what he says. And I’ll let you decide whether he’s more helpful than harmful.”
Sue nodded. It was going to be hard for her, I knew.
But I also knew that this was going to be a different kind of study than either of us imagined.