Thursday, August 5, 2010

Titus – Reflections IV

The hinge of Titus is 2:11 – 14. Preceding this passage Paul addresses individual categories of Christians; on the other side of the passage we have:

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.

Peaceable deportment, and true humility are linked to Christian attitudes toward rulers and authorities. The ungodly attitudes of 3:3ff, including malice and envy and hatred are in such close proximity to our commanded Christian attitudes toward rulers and authorities that we can either acknowledge that they specifically inform Paul’s admonition to be subject to rulers and authorities or at the least acknowledge that they are to inform our attitudes toward rulers and authorities as a general command, teaching, and precept of Scripture.

This then is the picture: The church in Crete was in a society that was sensually driven, a society in which personal pleasure ruled the day and self-control was out the window. This personal pleasure was not confined to physical hedonistic pursuit, but was also manifested in slander, rebellion against authority, religious speculations, and the like. That is, sensuality is not simply physical, it is total – from the head to the foot, from the mind to the heart to the loins – it is to dwell on the earth –to borrow an image from John’s Revelation.

One of the particular expressions of this sensual society was rebellion against authority, not martial rebellion but rather a rebellious and slanderous attitude – and this is, after all, but an extension of sensuality, for sensuality must push against all authority of whatever kind in its downward spiral of self-seeking pleasure.

Paul throws Titus a lifeline for the church in Crete; godliness, self-control, obedient subjection and respect to rulers and authorities. Without this lifeline, without an understanding that Christ came to redeem us from all wickedness (and make no mistake – what Paul is writing about and what we are speaking of is wickedness) and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

From the elder to the slave we are to be a people of godly self-control. As a people we are to be known as those who respect rulers and authorities. Hopefully we know that to slander is to partake of the enemy, the source of all slander – including slander masked in Christian-self-righteousness. Hopefully we know that all rebellion in attitude and heart is from Satan, the source of all rebellion – including rebellion hidden (it can never be truly hidden!) beneath layers of Christian moralism, Christian nationalism, and Christian power-politics.

Whether it is an individual professing Christian living a hedonistic life pursuing the American dream, or a collective Christian political movement with vitriolic rhetoric, or a Christian tribe which has adopted its doctrine and practice against all other Christians (a circumcision group of 1:10) – we are called to be the people of Christ, His very own people, eager to do what is good – and we are to have eyes for no one but Him.

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