I never really liked the term “mentor.” Maybe because it’s part of the word “tor-mentor,” or maybe it’s just because the word seems overly-used and ill-defined. The word actually comes from a character named Mentor in The Odyssey who imparted a bit of wisdom and knowledge to some guy named Telemachus. I don’t know the details, and it’d probably be boring to talk about, so I’ll stop with the history lesson. The English dictionary says it’s a “trusted counselor or guide.” Some people would say it’s a role model. Whatever its exact definition, I think we can all agree that it has something to do with someone who knows lots about stuff helping along someone who knows less about stuff.
I’m sure it’s no surprise that the term “mentoring” never appears in the Bible. But if you take our rather vague definition from above, the Bible is full of relationships that illustrate the principle. Here’s some to start:
Jesus and the Twelve
Barnabas and Paul
Paul and Titus
Paul and Timothy
Naomi and Ruth
Elijah and Elisha
Jethro and Moses
Moses and Joshua
Deborah and Barak
Elizabeth and Mary
Eli and Samuel
Samuel and David
Mordecai and Esther
Undoubtedly I missed quite a few. But it’s a good start to a list, and if you can think of others off the top of your head, it only reinforces my point. The Bible is loaded with examples of wise folks sharing their wisdom with the up-and-coming.
It seems to me that this was part of God’s plan to reach us all along. He (God) was the first mentor. He walked with Adam in the Garden of Eden before the Fall and spent time talking, teaching, and growing in relationship. It was someone who knew lots about stuff helping someone who knew less about stuff. How lucky Adam was! From way back then then and on through the New Testament, famous duos emerge in the Bible in a similar format: one sharing their life wisdom, and another learning from it.
If it was God’s idea to start the whole thing, I think it’d be wise for us to continue it. Paul’s letters to Timothy (the first and second) as well as to Titus are full of encouragements, commands, memories, and familiarity that speak to a very close “mentoring” relationship that the two guys shared with him. Without Paul’s dedication, commitment and encouragement to Timothy and Titus, there’s no telling what would have become of the churches in Crete (where Titus led) or Ephesus (where Timothy led).
These were foundational churches that helped form the success story of the Church in the first century, without which we might not have found ourselves here. Thank goodness they did not fail!
Check out 1 Peter 5 as we close out. It’s an encouragement addressing some guys – both old and young – two thousand years ago:
[To the elders among you]: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.
Peter seems to be saying it is the duty of the old folks – or elders – to provide a shepherding relationship to those that are under their care (the young ones). You can read into the passage a bit and sense the reluctance these first century elders must have felt. I mean, really, aren’t young people weird? What would they want with us? Peter reminds them that this shouldn’t be something they do out of obligation but good will. Their example is something that makes a profound difference in the lives of their flock.
But he doesn’t stop there:
Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
God also must have anticipated young people’s resistance to admitting that they need the help. Seriously! Who wants some crusty old dude’s advice, when they don’t even know how to send a proper Snapchat? They can’t relate! Nowadays, it’s all the hype to blaze your own trail. It’s no mistake that he tells the young men (and I think it applies to women, too) that they must submit and clothe themselves with humility towards those who are older. We need the wisdom from them because yes, they can relate, and most importantly, they’ve been there and they got through it.
Both groups – the old and the young – need one another. You can look to Paul and Timothy, Jesus and the Twelve, or any other of those “couples” on the list above. There’s no telling where the younger half would be without the older half imparting some wisdom into their life. For many of us, there’s no telling where we’d be without someone wise in our lives guiding us through life’s tricky waters. Many people have shaped who I became today. I need guidance. You can see my last post, Part 1, to understand just how dumb I can be at times. Without mentors, I’d be totally lost. I need these relationships. And so do you.
Thank you for reading. Stay tuned for Part 3, “What We’re Gonna Do About It,” to learn just how we’re going to start doing this in the Vancouver Church of Christ.