Paul expresses his deep concern for his son in the faith, Timothy, in his letters to him. His greeting includes the fact that Paul, probably in prison, is spending much of his time both day and night in prayer for his young disciple. He is aware of the battle raging in Ephesus. The pagans are calling the Christians atheists because they won’t offer incense to the gods or to Caesar. The Jews are calling the Christians idolaters because they are claiming that Jesus is God. Paul tells Timothy about his clear conscience in the face of his being in prison at the hands of both the pagans and the Jews. His faith is real, and he is bold in the face of such opposition. He wishes Timothy to be strengthened in his faith as well and to remain faithful during his serious times of persecution by both sides. Paul knows how hard it is for Timothy. On his father’s side, there are pagans. On his mother’s side, there are Jews. He’s under attack from his whole family. Paul knows how Timothy is struggling, and in 2 Timothy 1:4, he tells him, “As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy.”

Paul speaks about his deep times of prayer often in his letters. We might normally think of them as times on his knees next to his bed, pleading with God on behalf of his disciples. I have a hard time seeing such a man of action doing that. I know this will sound heretical, but it seems more human for Paul to simply be filled with concern and worry about his young disciples. Since Paul even exhorts us to “pray always.” I think that it has more to do with our thought life and concern than it does with formal words and postures that we might advance to God. As Paul tells Timothy that he “remembers your tears,” it sounds more like concern and empathy than official or formal prayer time. Whatever the memory is here, I don’t see it as a way to motivate Timothy to action. Proctor makes it sound like Paul is exhorting Timothy by pointing to all the people that have expectations of him.  He observes, “Three times in 1:3–5, he speaks of remembering. Specifically, he stirs in Timothy the remembrance of his heritage. Paul begins by mentioning his own heritage: ‘I serve as my forefathers did’ (1:3). He then goes on to mention Timothy’s heritage: ‘I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.’ I heard of a little girl who hesitantly approached her mother, ‘Mommy, do you remember the blue vase in the living room?’ The mother asked, ‘Do you mean the one that’s been passed down in my family from generation to generation?’ The little girl sheepishly answered, ‘Yes, and this generation just dropped it.’”[1] Proctor goes on and says, “Paul’s message here is, “Timothy, don’t be the generation that drops the faith. I am following in the footsteps of faith left by those who’ve gone before me. Now you follow in the footsteps left by those who’ve gone before you.”

The nuns at Blessed Sacrament Grade School and Holy Name High school occasionally asked me why I wasn’t more like my older sister. She was a good student. She was obedient. She never got in trouble. I was just the opposite. Many commentators see Paul telling Timothy something similar. I just don’t see Paul doing that! I just don’t see Paul telling Timothy not to be the one that drops the ball. It’s more like an expression of deep concern for Timothy and understanding of what he was going through. Paul tells Timothy that he knows about the suffering he’s undergoing, and he is concerned for him and wishes that he could be with him to both comfort him and be comforted by him as well. Paul says that it would “fill him with joy.” Paul was not afraid that Timothy would fall away from the faith because of the trials and persecution. Paul just wanted to comfort Timothy through them. He wanted to share with Timothy the comfort he received from God during his trials. After all, isn’t that what he says to the Corinthians in his second letter to them, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

[1] Proctor, Matt. 2009. 2 Timothy: Finish-Line Faith. 3:16 Bible Commentary Series. Joplin, MO: CP Publishing.