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Paul has certainly made his point in his letter to Titus. Believers ought to be different from the general population in specific ways—soberness, gentleness, kindness, humility, subjection—and for specific reasons—God’s undeserved gentleness and kindness to us, the presence of his Spirit in our minds, and our confidence in his faithful deliverance.
He ends the letter with something of a charge:
8 This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men. 9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, 11 knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned (Ti 3.8-11).
This charge has both a positive and a negative element. Positively, he says, pass these thoughts along (v 8). Encourage others to do the same. Make the concept go viral.
In a very small way, that’s what I’m doing, and I would encourage you to add your voice.
On the negative side, he says, don’t get into stupid arguments. Specifically he names “genealogies” and “disputes about the Law” (v 9)—that is, the Mosaic Law. That may seem a little odd to us; those aren’t typically things we fight about. It’s here we need to remind ourselves that Paul’s epistles were “occasional”—that is, they were written to address specific situations in specific local churches. On Crete, where Titus was overseeing a network of churches (Ti 1.5), these two things were apparently causing a lot of contention.
But clearly his larger principle is that we shouldn’t be fighting about anything that is “unprofitable and worthless” (v 9). That requires some judgment on our part, some soberness, of which Paul spoke back in chapter 2. In our current culture, it’s clear that many people careen from controversy to controversy, herded like sheep by the Arbiters of The Outrage of the Day.
Here’s an observation. We don’t have to care about the Outrage of the Day. Unless it’s an outrage by biblical standards. And even when we care, we engage in the public conversation with gentleness, kindness, and grace, remembering the pit from which we have been digged [sic], the undeserved kindness of our good and great God, and our responsibility to represent him well in a world that would much prefer to blaspheme him at any provocation.
Avoid foolish controversies. You don’t have to comment, like, or share.
Paul takes it a step further. When someone you know does that, he says, warn him, and then reject him (Ti 3.10). The word translated “reject” begins with begging someone to stop what he’s doing, then expressing disapproval and withdrawing your support. In the ancient world it’s used of declining an invitation and even of divorcing a wife.
Reject him. Paul says he’s “self-condemned.”
If more people took the current polarizing nonsense seriously enough to act this way on it, I wonder how long it would drive the public conversation. Social consequences bring changed behavior.
But as is always the case with biblical admonitions, we need to get the beam out of our own eye before we lecture our brothers. Back to self-assessment and repentance.
And then, certainly, spread the message. Pass the word. “Speak confidently” (Ti 3.8). Make this kind of evil have consequences.
Shalom, my friends.
Mark Lopez says
I’d be interested in your thoughts on this – with the positive argument in vs 8 – the translation that I use words it a bit stronger “and I want you to insist on these things”… I take that to mean vs. 3-7, the rehearsal of gospel realities. This passage especially, along with Eph. 4:31-5:2 and Romans 12:1-2 convinced me that the whole “gospel-centered” and “preach the gospel to yourself” movement wasn’t a fad. Am I correct that this is what he’s emphasizing in vs 8 or am I reading into it?
Dan Olinger says
I don’t think there’s any doubt that the foundation of our position before God, and consequently for our ethic, is the gospel, at least in Paul’s mind (and he’s right, of course).