What would you think of a man dressed in an orange jumpsuit with cuffs on his wrists and ankles? If flanked by uniformed police officers, we might see him as a dangerous criminal. But if held between black-hooded ISIS militants, we might think he was a martyr.
The same situation can be a cause for shame or honor, depending on whose interpretation we accept. This is the essence of Paul’s message to Timothy. Paul was wrestling against the shame of his incarcerated status. Both Roman and Jewish officials had treated him as though he were dangerous. Many of his fellow Christians, influenced by public perception, had subsequently turned away from him (1:15).
But when Paul raised his eyes above the world’s view of his life, he saw God smiling on his chains. In God’s economy, these were chains of honor, proving his love for Christ and commitment to His gospel. As long as he held on to a heavenly perspective, Paul could resist the world’s shame.
Enduring the world’s shame and redefining its code of honor didn’t come easily. It required a minute-by-minute reality check, looking to his “Commanding Officer” for approval rather than to the surrounding civilian population (2:4). It was like dancing to a different rhythm than everyone else.
Thankfully, Paul was not alone. Others (like Timothy and Onesiphorus) shared God’s value system, and their support was invaluable. The foundation of Paul’s confidence was the Father’s faithfulness, the Son’s example, and the Holy Spirit’s help (1:12–14; 2:8–13). Paul encouraged Timothy (and us) to join him in suffering for Christ. If we endure, we will reign with Him and receive the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.