We’re now in our third week of sermons covering Paul’s epistle to Titus. Pastor Riccardo kicked off week one giving some background on the letter, covering what proper training in the gospel by spiritual mothers and fathers looks like, and summing up qualifications for leaders in the church. Two Sundays ago, Pastor Tyler took us further into the topic of leadership, contrasting qualities that make up godly leaders versus those that are contrary to it. And this past Sunday, Riccardo covered the somewhat challenging passage Titus 2:1-9. As the setting is in the first century on the Greek island of Crete, and the points raised are relevant to that context, principles are timeless. Sometimes it can be difficult to weed through the cultural and historical milieu and decided how the Bible applies to today’s society. But when we deconstruct the specifics and work our way down to the core of what was written, we will find a roadmap by which to journey through life. As we travel, we might ask: How do we work out the truths of Scripture in a way that is missional and active? How do we know we are within God’s will when approaching a passage of Scripture? The answer to either is that we let every idea we have and action we take flow out of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.
This passage of categorizes individuals into five groups: older men, older women, younger men, younger women, and slaves. We will take the instructions for each of these groups and break them down, individually, looking at them through the lens of the gospel.
“Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.”(v. 2)
You’ve seen more of the world than most of us. You’ve experienced more joy and more pain. After you’ve put in the hard work, while seemingly come out the other side, it’s easy to check out. But we need you present, persevering, and diligent. Keep pursuing Christ; keep leading. Stay engaged in what is happening in the world around you. Know the people in your church and in your community. Invest in them. Learn about how the world is growing and changing. Be dignified. Conduct yourself in a manner deserving of respect. Be sound in your faith. Don’t grow bitter and disconnected, but stand firm in love. We need leaders like you to impart your wisdom, both in word and in action.
There is no one who suffered more than Christ. Although he lived a life of only thirty-three years, he experienced many hardships. He was persecuted, beaten, mocked; he saw sickness, death, extreme poverty, and cruelty. He took on the suffering for the sins of his people: an eternal wrath of God poured out in one single event at the cross. And yet, he did not check out. He had the opportunity to check out after fasting in the wilderness (Matthew 4:8-10). He had the opportunity to check out when tried by the council who took him to Pilate. He could’ve renounced his seemingly “blasphemous” claim to be the Son of God and walked away, but he didn’t (Luke 22:70). He could’ve checked out in the Garden of Gethsemane when his support network failed him, falling asleep in his darkest moments. He could’ve slipped into the night and disappeared, living the rest of his life in obscurity (Matthew 26:36-46). And even on the cross, in his moment of ultimate suffering, he could’ve checked out. As his oppressors mocked him and taunted him to summon angels to bring him down off the cross, he could’ve. He was, by very nature, God. He could’ve ended it all right there Mark 15:29-32. Praise God that he didn’t check out. We now can live and stay engaged. Fight when it gets hard. Reach into the lives of others and offer hope and healing. Because Christ has the power to keep going, and he resides in you. Because in a world where Christians are pulled in every direction by the its currents, we need others older and wiser than us to point us to an anchor. We need older men not to check out.
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women.” (v. 3)
Be reverent. In a culture where every demographic seems to be fighting for “their rights,” it can be easy to be caught up in a commotion of emotion and act rashly. In the midst of an angry, entitled society, show a solemn respect for what is good. Be calm; be dignified. Be reverent. Riccardo related the word reverent to priestly. And what was the job of the priests? To guide and teach and spiritually mentor the people of God. Older women, take what you know to be true about God and teach it. Relate to us what godliness looks like. Teach it in word and in deed. Live your life in such a way that Christ is made great. Don’t revert to ways of immaturity: gossip and negativity. Instead, seek to understand your flaws and the flaws of those around you in order to gently encourage growth. Don’t judge others from a distance; come alongside them and seek to know them and love them. Learn their story, and encourage them to continue writing it in a way that honors God. Yes, Christ taught large crowds of people. But he also dedicated His life to walking alongside his disciples, lovingly getting to know them, mentoring them, teaching them gently, and most of all, being an example of godliness and servant leadership.
“(Y)oung women [should] love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” (v. 4)
Follow the example of those older and wiser than you. Our commands are all stemming from what the older women will be teaching us and modeling. In order to live out what this passage calls us to do, we must place ourselves in environments where we have the opportunity to learn from those who have come before us.
Here are some things we should learn:
–Love your spouse. Never ever talk bad about them. You should be their ultimate supporter and promoter. In addition to being your love, they are your best friend, your biggest fan, and your lifelong teammate.
–View your children as a blessing, even in the most chaotic of times. They are an opportunity to experience the joys of life with another human being whom you love deeply, an opportunity to learn and grow, and a daily opportunity to self-sacrifice for the glory of God!
–Care for your home. Make it a safe place where families grow to love and know God. Of course, women can still work. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that women cannot have a career. In fact, there are wonderful examples of women in business and productive workers outside the home. This never comes at the expense of raising a family. We should never prioritize career over training and loving our children. This goes for any parent, not just mothers. However, we are called with a specific responsibility to create a loving home environment. In general, God has designed women as very nurturing. Even from the very beginning of parenthood, the mother carries the child before s/he is born and nurses the child after. This kind of relationship is a God-given gift that we should look at as a blessing, not a restraint.
–Submit to your husband. In a culture where we try so hard to promote equality and avoid misogyny, this can be a very abrasive statement initially. But when we break it down and view it through the lens of Christ, we realize that it is a very beautiful picture of how Christ operates: Philippians 2:4-8. He made Himself lower than the angels. He submitted to God the Father’s authority, and thus gave us an example to follow. This is not to say that we don’t help to make decisions or have a strong voice in the family unit. A husband and wife should work together as a team and make decisions with their collective God-given wisdom. Which brings us to the category of younger men.
“Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” (vv. 6-8)
Men should be so careful to ensure that they never take advantage of their position as leader of a household, but they always carefully examine the needs of each member of the family and put others first. As leaders, they too, should follow Christ’s example in leading. The Jews were expecting a conquering political king; rather, they found a gentle and kind servant who sacrificed everything for the sake of his bride: the Church. When the gospel truly permeates a life, this kind of servant leadership can’t help but flow out.
Younger men are to be self-controlled. In a culture where everything around us is telling us to chase after our desires in order to be happy, we must be counter-cultural (Luke 9:23-24). Don’t let passions control you, but rather, be controlled by the Holy Spirit. Fill yourself up with truth so that you may stand firm against the attacks of this world and the devil. Be a model of good works; be blameless in teaching and in life. This is a high standard to live up to. Thankfully, we have already been made blameless in the sight of the Lord, and our good works can flow out of this transformation. No matter what we do now, our motive is to glorify and honor the Lord who brought us life.
“Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.”(v. 9)
Which leads us finally to dealing with slaves, or bondservants. Throughout history, slavery has taken on many forms, and what was common in the first century Greco-Roman world was not what we think of when we discuss the extreme horrors of slavery over the first ninety years after the founding of the United States. Though that’s not to excuse the less severe forms under different, and often willing, circumstances. In any event, this passage can be applied to every Christian. We are all, first and foremost, servants of Christ. This means that we submit to him in everything in good faith, trusting that his ways are best, putting his truths into action. In addition, we can apply this on a horizontal level: we are to be submissive, respectful, and agreeable to our employers and any other person who holds authority over us. As long as we are not asked to do anything sinful, we should submit to any earthly authority over us as Christ submitted to his heavenly Father, as well as to his earthly parents. Even though he was completely sinless and his Mary and Joseph were not, he still humbled himself beneath them out of his perfect obedience and as our example of what it looks like to submit to authority (Luke 2:51). He obeyed them without questioning or grumbling, and we should do the same.
In summary: Be engaged in the world around you. Don’t check out. Teach your wisdom both in words and in action. Come alongside those who are younger, and mentor them. Reach out to those who are older, and learn from them. Wives, submit to your husbands, and husbands, love your wives and put her needs first. And in everything that you do, do it all so that the truth of the gospel and the glory of God may be advanced! Let your life point to Jesus in such a way that others wonder why you’re different and want to know more. Let your life preach the gospel right alongside your words, and do so through the power of Christ working in you.