Monday, April 14, 2008

Holy Hands

The Godfather

In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he writes, “I want men in every place to lift up holy hands in prayer without anger or quarreling (I Timothy 2:8). This is the same passage where Paul tells women they need not “teach” their men. That is, as both the unusual Greek verb and the entire context suggest, women need not “teach” with a frying pan! Neither by cast-iron nor by an unending stream of yelling and nagging are women to “teach” no matter how bull-headed their husbands. In the same way, men don’t need to use their fists, no matter how foolish or how deserving their opponent.. Instead of lifting up hands to hit, men now lift up holy hands to pray.
The idea of holy hands is not new. In Israel’s battle with the Amalekites when Moses lifted up his arms, the battle would turn to the Israelites. When Moses in weariness let his arms come down, the battle would favor the Amalekites. Eventually Aaron and Hur gave Moses a rock to sit on and themselves held Moses’ hands steady until sunset and the victory of the Israelites. The secret of the story is found by looking carefully at the Hebrew. When Moses would raise his hands up either his left or his right hand would touch the throne of God hovering unseen at Moses’ side. Being in touch with God means victory.
Paul remembers all of this when he writes to Timothy about holy hands. Men and women don’t need to be constantly on the offensive because we go hand in hand with God. When we pray, he’s right there.
In that same passage, Paul says that women don’t need to do their hair for five hours a day (as some of the Roman styles of the time literally required). The women of Timothy’s church can get by on say, an hour of preparation if necessary. Why? Because they are in touch with “Fairest Lord Jesus,” who gives them a beauty far beyond the neck-numbing braids and curls of Roman fashonistas. Jesus gives women a beauty both within and without, shining in all that they do and all that they are.
For both men and women, the secret is that we are in contact with the Lord, as David says “I am continually with thee; thou dost hold me by the right hand.” In other words, God has our back, so we can relax. We are in tight with a real “Godfather,” namely, God the Father. We can afford to be generous. We can afford to be long-suffering. We can afford to have largesse, after all we are soldiers of the king of kings.