A little while ago, I wrote a post titled Sound Doctrine. I thought I would continue with Titus, chapter 2, which is where the earlier post got its name. (Please keep in mind, these are just the musings of some one who desires to love God and be obedient, not a theologian.)
Paul follows up his command to teach sound doctrine with this command:
Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and endurance. (Titus 2:2, NIV)
Is this part of teaching sound doctrine? Is this complimentary to sound doctrine? Perhaps I should look at defining doctrine before I go any further in order to make certain that I am clear with my understanding of the word.
This definition seems to be most applicable to the topic of church doctrine:
a principle or position or the body of principles in a branch of knowledge or system of belief (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)
The teaching of how men should behave doesn’t seem to me to be necessarily a doctrinal matter. While it may be important and complimentary to sound doctrine, it seems that the behaviors listed by Paul in verse 2 are more of a response, or fulfillment, of adhering to sound doctrine. Not being what I would consider an older man, I can’t address these behaviors from a personal perspective. However, by a casual observer of human behaviors, I’ve watched enough older men in action to offer up a comment or two.
Again, I’ll start with a definition…
keeping or held within limits : not extreme or excessive (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)
Being well-grounded in his faith and with a long life of experiences, an older man is wise to avoid extremes. Some of the most temperate men I’ve know have been those who have experienced the most extreme conditions especially in hardship. I have found the men who have served our country in the military in combat are often the most temperate individuals I know. Whether it is the difference between the chaotic pace of battle and the comparatively dull pace of ordinary life that helps to moderate a man’s temperament, I will probably never know. What is significant to me is that men who are more temperate tend to be the men who more easily earn others respect.
Be worthy of respect
This would seem to assume that all (or at least most) behaviors in the past have been honorable, noble, or just plain right and good. I suppose it means more than just the absence of bad behaviors, but it also means leading a life that is complete with notable actions that are worthy of respect. Helping those in need, being of service to friends and neighbors, etc.
All of these characteristics that Paul is identifying seem intertwined rather than successive or exclusive of one another. Knowing how to be in control of your human sin-nature is probably the least discussed behavior in today’s mainline churches (that could be because the concept of sin is very elusive, if not altogether absent, from said churches). Even after a lifetime of learning to be faithful and obedient to God, Paul exhorts older men to continue in self-control. This is somewhat encouraging to us younger men who are perhaps dealing with sin-caused struggles that are still new to us or have escaped our detection.
Be sound in faith
Yielding to Christ on a consistent basis results in soundness in faith. Entering into and completing trials of faith typically yields a stronger faith. Ultimately, it is God who provides everything that is good and our decision is simply to have faith by yielding to His perfect will. Who better to emulate and instruct than an older man who has (likely) been through many of his own trials of faith. Who, by patient instruction, can benefit his younger audiences (especially men) by sharing all of the ups and downs of each trial and bring them to life in a way that will encourage faithfulness even when all hope seems lost.
Be sound in love
God is love. It is reasonable to expect a man of many years to have experienced so many different trials over the course of his life to become incapable of love the way God would have us love one another. That is probably why Paul exhorts older men to be firm in love. Love isn’t something that necessarily comes naturally to us as humans (especially men). Practicing the love that God intended for our relationship with Him and with our neighbors is the only way to be sound in love. And again, who better a role model of love than a man seasoned by the trials of life who has applied his knowledge of God’s ultimate love to every aspect of his journey.
Be sound in endurance
Endurance is persevering.
Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:4, NIV)
It is refreshing to see some one who is not lacking in anything. They are strong and they have a powerfully calming affect on those who look to them for guidance. I realize that completeness will not be accomplished until we reside with Christ in the glory and splendor of heaven, but there are examples of older men who are certainly more complete, more mature, and more content than their younger brethren. These men exhibit the nature of God even with their human limitations in order for younger men (and women) to have a more complete picture of who God is.
Even though Paul is addressing older men, it is easy for anyone to apply those commands to their own life. This is what you are aiming for as a mature creation of Christ. And who better to emulate the perfectness of Jesus than the men who have had a lifetime to experience His grace and goodness.