As we noted last time, Paul begins Titus’s “to-do list” by urging him to get the right leadership in place in the churches (Ti 1.5-9), because right leadership, and the teaching that comes with it, is essential to solving the significant problem that is already manifest across the island of Crete: false teachers are leading the Cretans down the path to social destruction (Ti 1.10-11), a development made all the easier by the fact that Cretan society is inclined to go that way (Ti 1.12). Specifically, their rejection of the truth is likely to drive them to foolish arguments, which can only divide (Ti 1.13-14). If a people is rightly oriented toward God, they’re more likely to recognize accurately what is right and, consequently, to do it (Ti 1.15-16). Hence the need for solid leadership.
And what are those well-qualified leaders going to teach these wrong-headed, angry, fragmented people? “Healthy” teaching (Ti 2.1). Solid, robust, muscular truth. That’s going to set up a society among the believers—a subculture, if you will—where the different demographic elements—the older men, the older women, the younger women, the younger men, the slaves, everybody (Ti 2.2-10)—live differently—noticeably differently—from the corrupt culture around them, each doing its part to contribute to the whole body.
I find it interesting that while each subgroup has slightly different responsibilities springing from its place in the culture—older women are to be the teachers of the younger women, for example, and to avoid gossip, while younger women are to be diligent about their natural responsibilities in the home—yet there is an overarching commonality that informs their specific behaviors. At the root of the specific things they do to fulfill their responsibilities is a sense of restraint: both the older and younger men are to be “dignified” and “sensible” (vv 2, 7), and the younger women are to be “sensible” as well (v 5), while the older women are to “teach what is good”—including sensibility (v. 5)—and not be “enslaved” to wine—both of which speak of restraint and wisdom.
In short, exercising restraint. Not doing whatever they feel like doing at the moment, but choosing to do the wise things, the good things, the things that contribute to the building up, not the tearing down, of the fragile and troubled society that surrounds them. Speaking what is true. Calling for love (vv 2, 4).
Even the hot-blooded young men are to do good (v 7), speak in ways that are “beyond reproach” (v. 8), so that—get this—“the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us” (v 8).
And the slaves? Those not well respected by the larger society? Those under—to put it mildly—difficult circumstances, being unjustly burdened?
Don’t argue (v 9). Show all good faith (v. 10).
So how are we doing? We live in a broken society, one filled with unhealthy ideas and words.
Are we part of the disease, or part of the cure?
- What does posting things that are not true—lies—do to that already sick situation?
- What does lack of restraint in our angry outbursts do?
- What does evident lack of love (“let’s make Colin Kaepernick lose his mind!”) do?
- What does gossip do?
- What does lack of dignity do?
- What does calling for open rebellion do?
- What does arguing do?
Do these things give the enemy something bad to say about us?
Do they adorn the teaching that we have heard?
If you’ve been paying attention to our political culture lately, no doubt this list of questions has called to mind specific things you’ve seen online—memes, posts, comments.
If the sins that have come to your mind have all been committed by your opposition—Trump supporters, never-Trumpers, conservatives, liberals, Democrats, Republicans, whatever—then you’re part of the problem.
Evaluate your own words against the criteria of truth, sensibility, and restraint.
And as soon as you’ve done that, you have some work to do.
Some posts to go back and delete. Or to leave up, with an added comment declaring your repentance as loudly and publicly as you declared your rage.
Some personal messages, public and private, to those you’ve sinned against.
Time to stand out for good reasons, biblical ones.
For the mission. For the Kingdom.
For the King.