Monday, August 2, 2010

Titus – Reflections

Titus is one of those Biblical books that doesn’t get much press. It suffers from being wedged between 1 & 2 Timothy on the left, and Philemon and Hebrews on the right. When folks talk of a Pauline protégée they will pick Timothy 99 times out of 100 over Titus. It isn’t personal, it’s just that Timothy is the lead-off batter in what we call the Pastoral Epistles; 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus. At first glance Titus can appear to be a recapitulation of the two Timothy letters, so why spend much time in it?

I think we often mentally reach the conclusion of 2 Timothy and then leap right over Titus, Philemon and Hebrews to James in order to get on with some practical advice on Christian living. Philemon is a quirky little note, almost an email, from Paul to Philemon, an interlude in the midst of grand important doctrines and crises of praxis. When the Philemon film rolls it’s time to run to the fridge or bathroom – to take a short break.

And Hebrews? Well, what exactly is Hebrews all about anyway? And good gracious, all that Old Testament stuff – it makes my head hurt. Let’s genuflect and get on with the rest of the New Testament. (Little do folks realize when they reach the letter from James that they’re reading a NT version of the OT book of Proverbs.)

I want to put in a plug for Titus; actually, I want to put in more than a plug for Titus, I want to suggest that Titus has some things to say about the deportment of Christians in the increasingly disrespectful society we find ourselves in today – and particularly in the disrespectful church we find ourselves all too often in today.

It also strikes me that Titus and James have much in common – they are both focused on practice, on the outworking and outliving of the Christian life, and they both pay particular attention to the tongue. They also focus on attitudes and deportment. I invite you to engage in your own study of these similarities.

One of the fancy words we use to describe the NT letters is “occasional”. We say, “The New Testament letters were written to address specific occasions in the life of the Early Church.” Hence the term “occasional”.

What were the things that occasioned  the writing of the various letters? Generally speaking the only way to answer that question is to thoughtfully read the letters and pay attention to what the authors are writing about – sometimes they are overt in what they are addressing and sometimes we have to read between the lines. When we have to read between the lines we should acknowledge that our detective work is imperfect at best and hold our conclusions regarding the occasion loosely, what we should not hold loosely is our obedience to the Word of God expressed in the NT letters, whether or not we understand what precipitated their writing.

This brings me back to Titus…to be continued…   

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