Before I get back into my study of Titus I want to share a few things about how I’m going about this study. First, I honestly have no idea why I chose to start with Titus or with the second chapter, but that’s where I started so that is that. Secondly, I am using BibleGateway.com as my source for the scripture so that I can cut and paste the text directly into my blog. I prefer to use a hard copy of the bible, but for practical reasons this online version works very well. Thirdly, I am using the paragraph delineations as my own in order to keep my thoughts more organized. I realize that there may be paragraphs that cross chapters and I will try and take that into consideration where appropriate. Of course, these are just guidelines and not hard and fast rules, so I imagine I will be “coloring out of the lines” here and there. (Many of you look at the title of my posts and just skip reading, so I guess I’m just writing this for my own edification.) On with the post…
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men. (Titus 3:1-2, NIV)
Subjecting ourselves to someone (or something) else is a challenging command. Whether it’s your spouse, your boss, the government, or your God, the act of subjecting yourself is something that we think of as a violation of our freedom, or free will. And if there is a moral value we uphold more than any other in our country it’s the idea of freedom. (Well, at least individual freedom. You could argue that we are consistently forfeiting our corporate freedoms more and more each day with the increasingly socialized government we allow, which, of course, is stripping individuals of their freedom one small bit at a time and going largely unnoticed by the vast majority of people. More on that in another post.) Because we cherish our individual freedom we cannot imagine voluntarily giving it to someone else for their use (or misuse). What boggles my mind is that men and women in our culture seem more predisposed to submitting themselves to their bosses, or the government, before being willing to submit to a spouse, or close friend. Is that atypical of human nature, or does it fall in-line with it?
No matter who it is we submit ourselves to we are taking a great risk: a risk that our needs will be brushed aside for the needs of our “master” (no matter how temporary). In many cases that is exactly what happens. Of course, there are often delayed rewards for our submission that will ultimately fulfill our needs or desires, but even with the promise of “benefits”, submitting yourself is not easily done. It takes an act of will.
Sometimes I look at submitting as simply “giving in”. While that may be a part of subjecting myself to another, it misses the more important point. I can’t just resign myself to being subject to someone else, I have to intend on subjecting to another’s will. Whoa. This begins to sound a little bit like what our relationship with God should be like. I can’t just sigh and say, “Okay God, take over and do Your thing.” I have to submit to God and if He wills it, He will “do His thing” through me (or someone else, if necessary). If my boss says, “Take out the trash” then I must actually do something: take out the trash. Maybe that’s too simplified an illustration.
For what it’s worth, I’m not expounding on obedience because for the purpose of this study, I’m considering one who subjects themselves as one who is also obedient. Let’s stop and ask this question:
Who are the rulers and authorities?
Well, I’ll list a few: Our boss (or employer), the government (e.g. mayors, governors, presidents, etc.), the police, our parents, our spouses. Our willingness to subject ourselves to these rulers and authorities probably has a huge variance depending on any number of factors, such as whether we respect the person, or whether we agree with them politically, etc. However, Paul writes to Titus to remind his flock “to be subject”. He doesn’t offer conditions or exemptions. It isn’t an optional activity. As much as it may pain me to comply with the some laws, Paul reminds me that I am to subject myself to the law (blasted speed limits!) not because I need to earn “brownie points” but because in subjecting myself I am showing my love of God.
Paul offers some helpful ideas for behaving in a submissive manner:
Do whatever is good.
I imagine that this is Paul’s reminder to us that doing what is good is for the benefit of our relationship with God. God is good. Doing what is good is an act of worship.
Slander no one.
Bite your tongue. How important is this suggestion? Many of us may never get caught in our slanders of friends, neighbors, or colleagues, but that doesn’t make slandering them any less evil in the eyes of God. Slandering others implies that you have an audience for your slander and not only is that evil in the eyes of God, but it is detrimental to all who hear you. Whether positive or negative we all have an influence on the people we talk to and when you open your mouth to spew forth vindictiveness about someone else, you are most certainly acting as a negative influence (or as a force for evil, if you prefer). For what gain are you slandering? Clearly it is for selfish reasons and that violates so many aspects of God’s law.
Be peaceable and considerate.
This can be hard to do, but is no less important. Make peace. Go out of your way to be considerate. Use language that edifies and encourages. This suggestion, probably as much, or more, as any of the other “suggestions for subjugation”, will go the greatest distance in showing other people who your God is. People will notice peaceable and considerate actions and they will remember them.
Show true humility toward all men.
Paul calls it true humility because too often we find ourselves being humble in an insincere fashion. How often have you acted humbly behind gritted teeth? I know that I have done that too many times. Or if you suspect that a little humility toward certain individuals will get you farther in your career then you are not being humble in a true fashion. God knows our motives, so we’d better be careful about how we act in our humility.
Sometimes I wonder why I bother trying to explain what I read in scripture (either for my own edification or for anyone else’s). I can’t imagine Paul using more plain language that these two verses. I guess it’s more a matter of the application of the language rather than just the understanding of it. I suppose it also doesn’t hurt to remind myself who God is by studying and meditating on His word.