Life in the middle
Titus 3: Stay away from mindless, pointless quarreling over genealogies and fine print about the law code.
Since Paul’s somewhat critical of the average resident of Crete I assume that his warning to Titus here isn’t based on some natural tendency of Titus to get caught up in trivial matters. It seems to me that Paul thinks that the people of that island do share this tendency and if he isn’t careful Titus will get bound up in it too. Paul wants Titus, and all believers, to focus on the big picture. The Lord has graciously and in mercy reached out to us in our sinful state to establish us in a new relationship with him. He stepped into this world and knowing full well that we don’t deserve it, loved us anyway and went to work transforming our lives. Now, we’re made new, cleaned up by Jesus, recipients of God’s gift of himself to us. These are the things we’re to think and tell about. We’re to let others, outsiders, have the corner on worrying about the minutia of the law. They’re welcome to it. After all, if such things provide salvation, the Pharisees and Sadducees would have been Jesus’ best friends. Paul tells Titus to “put his foot down” and insist that the business of the Church is declaring Jesus and to provide evidence of what he does in people’s lives by being “bighearted and courteous,” law-abiding citizens. On one side of us are those who are “ordered every which way by their glands.” On the other side are those who focus on debating the finer points of the Law. Here in the middle, we just live for Jesus, telling our story to all who will listen.
Take Away: It’s easy to major on the minors – but to do so is to fail to live the life to which the Lord calls us.
Being the leader God calls one to be
Titus 2: You’re in charge. Don’t let anyone put you down.
Here in Crete Titus is operating in new territory. He’s been part of Paul’s team, traveling from place to place. Sometimes he’s gone out on special assignment, delivering a message or the like, but still operating under Paul’s wing. Now, though, things are different. Yes, he’s been appointed by Paul to this task, but, by and large he’s on his own. The Apostle reminds him of what he’s supposed to do, but this time, it’s Titus, by himself, meeting with congregations and organizing their leadership. It may be that Paul knows Titus well enough to know that he’s going to struggle a bit with this assignment. Even as he spells out Titus’ responsibilities Paul makes it a point to tell him that he’s in charge and as he meets with these budding congregations he needs to be ready to stand his ground concerning the kind of leaders they need and the kind of people they’re supposed to be. Here, again, I find myself considering a leadership principle. Humbleness is critical if one is to be the servant-leader Christian leaders are called to be. At the same time though, if one has been called to and granted authority for leadership by the Lord, that individual needs to have a firm grasp on that leadership. Most everyone recognizes God-called leadership. The thing is that while most recognize and appreciate it, a few are threatened by it and will challenge or manipulate it if they think they can get away with it. A Christian leader must recognize this and be ready to stand firm in his or her calling in a Christ-like manner.
Take Away: Christian leaders are servant-leaders, but they do carry with them a sense of authority.
Titus 1: I left you in charge in Crete so you could complete what I left half-done.
As I read Paul’s letters and the account of his journeys in the book of Acts I keep running into Titus and while I’m not given a complete biography of him, I pick up bits and pieces of his story along the way. He’s a Gentile, converted under Paul’s ministry. He joins Paul in his travels and assists the Apostle in various ways. The occasion of this letter is one example. Apparently, Paul spends some time on the island of Crete but for some reason has to leave before the work there is complete. He leaves Titus there to finish up, specifically, to appoint church leaders there. Now, Paul’s writing to Titus with some specific instructions for the completion of his task there. Again, while I don’t know all about Titus, I find enough information about him to cause me to think highly of him, as, obviously, Paul does. In this letter, Paul’s quick to get to the matter at hand. He wants Titus to put pastoral leadership in place in the Christian congregations on the island and he wants him to be careful in his selection of leaders. He wants people who are respected in the community, family men who are even tempered, welcoming to strangers, wise, fair, and reverent. An interesting qualification is that these leaders are to have a good grip on themselves and on the Good News of the Gospel. Understanding the gospel makes sense and so does having a good grip on self. Leaders need to be comfortable in their own skin. Obviously leaders need humility, but they also need a level of confidence. They need to know their strengths and weaknesses and be ready to entrust others to help shoulder the burden especially related to those weaknesses. Off Titus goes with his “shopping list” in hand, ready to pick people God has already picked and prepared for the task. Any church looking for a pastor will benefit from digesting this passage.
Take Away: The Lord uses a wide variety of people for his work, but some characteristics are to be found in them all.