2Ti 4:14-15 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. (15) Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message.
We are not told in Scripture what it was specifically that Alexander had done. It involved opposing the gospel with great and evil energy, and must have done real damage to Paul. “Great harm” are the words Paul described it with. But these two little verses have been very important to me. They demonstrate that:
- It is not slander to specifically name our abuser and expose his evil
- It is right to look forward to the day when Christ will repay the wicked for what they have done to us
And let me now add a third point to this list:
- We should expect, (and really the Lord requires) those who claim to be our friends and certainly those who claim to be Christians, to have nothing to do with the wicked one themselves.
Think of it. Alexander was an evil enemy of Paul and of Christ. He had done Paul much harm. Paul warns Timothy to beware of Alexander. (I like to think of Alexander as Alexander the Copperhead!) Does that mean that Timothy should keep hanging out with Alexander, but just be a bit wary of him? Of course not! It means that Timothy must realize that Alexander is an enemy of Christ and that he has done great evil to Paul. Obviously this means Timothy is not going to go over to Alexander’s house for dinner if invited.
And if Timothy did accept such an invitation, if Timothy thought that Paul might be exaggerating, or if Timothy listened to Alexander’s “take” on the gospel, what would that say about Timothy? Specifically, what would it say about Timothy’s real attitude toward Paul?
You see the point, right? All of you who have been wickedly abused by wicked people know that one of the most hurtful and frustrating aspects of it all is that when you make the evil known, when you reveal it and ask for help, when you identify your persecutor, family members, supposed Christian friends, and others you thought would surely help you, continue to maintain relationship and social interaction with the evil one. They do not obey the Lord:
1Co 5:11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.
An abuser is what the Bible calls a reviler. A reviler villifies. He accuses and guilts and condemns his victim. And a reviler is on the list that Paul gives here. We are to have nothing to do with such a person, especially if he claims to be a Christian. But is that what you see typically happening when an abuser is identified? No. You see the victim paying a price, but the majority of “friends” keep right on eating with such a one.
Why is this? What makes someone want to keep hanging out with Alexander? Cowardice? Refusal to pay the price of standing with the victim? Denial of the reality of evil? Whatever the reason, there is no good reason for this. It enables evil and causes greater harm to the victim. Furthermore, it raises serious doubt as to the reality of these “friends'” profession of Christ.
I have seen this thing play itself out over the years. People who claim to belong to Christ, people who insist that they are our friends and fellow believers, who then refuse to break off with a person who has cruelly treated someone, eventually end up standing with the wicked and against the victim. And really, this is what they had been doing all along.
If Timothy had not heeded Paul’s warning, if Timothy had socialized with Alexander and regarded the unpleasantness as just some squabble that was between Alexander and Paul, you know what would have happened. Timothy would no longer have been in ministry with Paul and his claim to be Paul’s fellow soldier for the gospel would have been exposed as a sham.
Of course, that didn’t happen. Timothy’s faith was real and he continued to be a great comfort and encouragement to Paul:
Php 2:19-22 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. (20) For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. (21) For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. (22) But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.