I had a gentleman named Daryl Hale for two classes in college, and he was one of my favorite professors. Apart from being a great educator, he was a great person. He taught Philosophy and Religion, and he tried to persuade me to switch from a minor in this field to a major. He reminded me a lot of my parents. While he no longer looked like a hippie when I had him, for some reason, one could tell he was a hippie. Maybe it was the fact that his facial hair consisted only of a mustache and it didn’t make me cringe (It usually does). He also had an Eric Clapton concert ticket taped to his office door.

The first class I had with Daryl, who had a doctorate degree but encouraged us to call him by his first name, was a class called “The Historical Jesus.” It looked at Jesus, His life, His teachings from Christian texts, texts from other religions, and secular texts. We looked at scripture from the Bible for probably half the semester, so on all accounts it was clear that Daryl knew about Jesus and the Bible, but he didn’t speak like a typical believer nor a total non-believer.

As it turns out, Daryl doesn’t attend church, but he’ll read his Bible on Sunday morning every now and then.

In Daryl’s hippie days, in the 60s when he was a young man working on his grandfather’s tomato farm, Daryl had long hair. I’ve seen a picture. It wasn’t shaggy or needing a trim or mid-length; it was impressively, way-past-the-shoulders long.

Daryl went to church and was told that he was going to hell because he had long hair.

Untrue and not biblical. Unnecessary and hurtful. It’s hard to blame Daryl or anyone in a similar situation for an aversion to church.

Evidently this awful behavior dates back to the beginning because it’s exactly what Paul warns Timothy about in 1 Timothy 4:1-5. False teachers were saying that it was wrong to do certain things when it wasn’t, making salvation more exclusive than it is.

The truth of it is that everyone won’t get into heaven, but the hope and promise of heaven is available to everyone. There’s nothing you or I or anyone can do that could make God not want to offer us salvation. That would make Him biased and His love conditional, and that simply isn’t God.

Paul goes on to say in verses 6-12, “If you put these instructions before the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound teaching that you have followed. Have nothing to do with profane myths and old wives’ tales. Train yourself in godliness, for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. These are the things you must insist on and teach. Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (NRSV).

Training isn’t easy. It’s learning and growing and pushing ourselves past familiar territory.

I worked out for the first time in forever on Monday. Nothing monumental, just some cardio. And you know what? I got a blister on the bottom of my foot. Training my body to get in better physical shape has already been uncomfortable, but that’s the point. Discomfort, in this sense, means improvement.

Paul says here that while being in physical shape is good, being in shape spiritually is far more important because it follows us into our next life, eternal life. And our spiritual training in turn gives us hope because it points beyond our earthly time.

And this training is applicable to everyone, which is why Paul says to teach it to everyone and not to let age (or anything else for that matter) stand in their way. He’s so emphatic about it that he encourages us to be examples of godly attributes, which only come through training.

Paul closes the chapter by writing, “Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders. Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers” (v. 14-16, NRSV).

Throughout the life of this blog, we’ve discussed gifts a fair bit. Everyone has a gift, and God gives us opportunities to use our gifts for Him. I have a gift of writing well, so I write the blog. Some are musically inclined, so they play in the worship band. Some have cheerful, inviting personalities, so they volunteer as greeters. Some have audio/visual skills, so they work in the sound booth and run slides on Sundays. I could go on, but I think you get my point. If you’re good at something, God has a purpose and plan for you to do it for Him.

Despite what false teachers throughout history have taught, God is an inclusive God, giving gifts to all and offering salvation to everyone. No length of hair, marital status, background, or personality type could make Him love you less and shortchange you. This is why we can all use spiritual training. No matter where we are, we’re all striving to get where we need to be, and God wants more than anything to help us all get there.

By Carrie Prevette

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