In the small, often-overlooked book of Titus, the Apostle Paul provides instructions to his young protégé. Paul had left Titus behind on the isle of Crete to complete the work of establishing and organizing the newly formed church. He was to appoint elders and establish order throughout the over 3,000 square miles of varied terrain.
Known as the birthplace of Zeus, the culture on Crete was a strong mix of ancient mythology and rampant immorality. Epimenides, a poet who lived around 600 BC said, “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy, gluttons.” According to Paul, not much had changed by the first century AD. Paul also spoke of wide-spread hatred among the people.
The Greek historian Polybius, wrote that Cretans were so greedy, that there was nothing they wouldn’t do to get money including “countless public and private seditions, murders and civil wars.” He went on to refer to them as completely unpraiseworthy, with the most unjust government in the entire world.
A study of the book of Titus is not only interesting history, it is also instructive. Just take a look around at our modern culture. We don’t have to look far to find corruption, hatred, broken marriages, murder, rape, envy, theft, laziness, and on and on the list could go. Are we really all that different from the folk Titus was called to Pastor?
Greatly outnumbered, some may have been tempted to hunker down for safety. Perhaps they could adopt a “hang on ‘til Jesus comes’ approach to church. Instead, Paul was clear that the Church of Jesus Christ is engaging and Counter-Cultural. He knew the Law of Opposite Action that Jesus taught: “If you want to be first, you have to be last and servant of all,” “If you want to be great, you must become least,” “Don’t hate your enemies, love your enemies,” “Bless those that curse you,” “Pray for those who spitefully use you.”
Paul presented a list of character points for older women, younger women, older men, younger men, slaves, and even the Pastor himself. They include such items as self-control, hard work, reverence, sobriety, love, integrity, seriousness, trustworthiness, peaceable, considerate, always gentle, righteous and godly.
Titus explains that these things do not save us, only God can do that by His amazing grace, instead they are a natural result of a people who are born again and love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. These traits provide a living example to those who have not yet turned to Jesus. The most effective presentation of the Gospel to the unsaved, is when it is lived out in front of them.
As I read Titus, I see two ways that the culture is to be confronted:
1. Teach the Gospel
In the great commission, Jesus clearly tells us to preach the gospel and make disciples. (Disciplined ones)
2. Live the Gospel
Paul tells Titus that there are important reasons why Christians should live out their faith with integrity and righteousness:
The importance of women living right is so that God’s Word will not be misrepresented and misunderstood. Paul didn’t want outsiders to have an excuse to badmouth the Bible.
The reason he gives for men living right is so that enemies will be ashamed at how much better Christians are. This is not to be a point of pride, rather a high standard that can only be achieved by God’s grace.
The importance of Christian slaves (can be read as employees today) living with integrity and submission is so that the Word of God will be attractive.
It’s of great importance that the Pastor lives out their faith in righteousness for all the reasons above and because they serve as the role model for all.
Two-thousand years later, the echoes of the ancient first century church and their righteous living remains. Instead of the reputation for violence, hatred and evil, Crete has one of the lowest crime rates in Europe and the influence of the Church abounds. The old curse of being called a Cretan no longer applies to this wonderful group of people.
Perhaps we need to take another look at the way we, in the modern Church, are engaging the culture. Are we living in a way that models Christ to those with whom we disagree, or are we mirroring the very tactics that tick us off.
It may sound simplistic, but I still believe the Word of God. We are called to pray for the prosperity of the land in which we live, (Jeremiah 29:7) we are to teach the truth (of the Gospel not our politics or opinions), and we are to live a life that is only possible to those who have accepted the Grace of God.