4 minutes reading time (703 words)
The New Testament book of Titus is a short letter written by the Apostle Paul to a young, Gentile convert named Titus. As he opens this letter, Paul refers to Titus as my true child in a common faith, an indication of the close personal relationship between Paul and Titus. Paul left Titus in Crete with the responsibility of continuing to strengthen the people there who had come to know Christ and needed help in learning to live out their faith. While this letter was written to a specific person with a specific task in a specific set of circumstances, it is full of sound advice from the Apostle Paul that is as relevant today as it was almost two thousand years ago.
Paul tells Titus to appoint elders in each of the towns, to teach sound doctrine that will guide the actions of these newly established churches and to instruct them to be devoted to good works. Paul knows that Titus will be carrying out these responsibilities in the face of challenging opposition. He says there are many people who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers (1:10). They profess to know God, but deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for any good work (1:16). Talk about a hostile work environment! Titus is tasked with encouraging new Christians who are inundated with voices that run counter to the message of the gospel. Some are pushing for a form of legalism, telling new converts they must adhere to the rules and regulations of the Jewish law. Others are heavily influenced by the culture of the day – diluting, twisting and distorting the truth.
So, what kind of advice does the Apostle Paul give to his young protégé in the midst of this struggle? I love the fact that Paul provides not only clear direction about what Titus should tell God's people to do. He also encourages Titus to remind them of why they are to do it.
First, what should they do? Paul boils it down to some simple, straightforward instruction in the first two verses of chapter 3:
Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. (3:1-2)
Notice the counter-cultural nature of Paul's advice here. When faced with opposition, including personal attacks by those who were looking for a fight, Paul says Christ followers are to respond with submission, obedience, gentleness and courtesy. In other words, they should not respond in kind. Instead, they must respond with kindness. It's a tough teaching that certainly seems foolish by the world's standards but is completely in line with the message of the gospel and the kingdom of God. Paul must have known how challenging this teaching would sound because he follows it up with the reasoning behind it – he reminds us of the why behind the what:
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (3:3-7)
What a great reminder. We can show kindness to those around us because of the kindness we've been shown by God. We can remember that God saved us, not because of anything we've done, but because he is merciful and loving. And he saved us, not by our own strength, but through the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit, poured out on us through Jesus. Only when we remember these foundational truths are we able to respond appropriately to the challenging people and circumstances we encounter in our lives.
Now, that's sound advice.
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