I initially prepared this the week of July 10th in the midst of police shootings and shootings of police. Tensions have not abated in the days since...
Any time that a person sets out to quote a part of the Bible, it is important to look both backward and forward in scripture to insure that one isn't taking the meaning of that portion out of context. In many cases that involves going back a considerable distance, and in fact may leave you feeling like you should quote the entire book to be sure you don't miss some of the context. In the case of this post, I initially wanted to concentrate on Titus 3:3, but upon reading both the verses before and after, I decided to expand the text that I will concentrate on to Titus 3:1-7.
This book is, of course, the Apostle Paul's letter to Titus, who he refers to as his son; that is a son in the spiritual sense because the LORD used Paul as the instrument of Titus' conversion. I think we can find the immediate context of our text in verse one of chapter 2 which says this:
"But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:"
The rest of chapter 2 and on into our text in chapter 3 are things that "become" or "fit with," or "are in alignment with" sound doctrine. Now, to our text.
Titus 3:1-3 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
If you follow the news at all, you are probably aware of the abundance of anger and hatred there is in our nation today. Recently there have been a number of shootings involving the police and members of minority groups. In two of these shootings the person from the minority group was killed, and it is quite possible that one of those was a incident where a police officer made a deadly mistake whether it was out of malice or fear. The third incident was a case of a member of a minority group taking revenge for those earlier incidents by shooting and killing a number of police officers.
Obviously those incidents were heavy on my mind while I prepared this. Again, verse 3 of our text says this:
"For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another."
The English Standard Version says it like this: "hated by others and hating one another."
Perhaps some of you have been Christians for so many years that you really don't remember what it was like to fit that description; hateful and hating one another. As for myself, having only been a Christian for about 16 years, I can very well recall when I was full of hate and hating others. There is no doubt in my mind that I would have been full of hate over these killings. In fact, given my background as a biker, I can testify that I would have been in the odd position of hating the minority groups for their skin color and hating the police for their position of authority!
In fact, I find the entirety of verse 3 to be an apt description of myself before Jesus became my Lord and Savior. I might have to amend the "sometimes foolish" to read "most times foolish", but the "deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another" are an all too perfect match.
Our nation presently is plagued with exactly these symptoms that Paul described to Titus here in verse 3. In fact, it could serve as a checklist for the culture of America today. Sometimes foolish. Check. Deceived; not only by false religions, but also by false versions of the Gospel. Check. Serving, or as the ESV puts it, slaves to various passions and pleasures. A big check mark there. Living in malice and envy. As Americans nearly all of us have more wealth than most of the people who have ever lived, and yet we still envy every one who has just a little bit more and have malice in our hearts toward them because of it. Check. Hateful and hating one another. We see it every day. Check.
So what are we to do?
Well..., Paul, since this instruction was for Christians, had already given the solution before he reminded them what had been the symptoms. As we read earlier in verses 1&2:
"Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men."
But perhaps even more importantly, Paul goes on after verse 3 to remind Christians the reason why they were no longer be foolish, disobedient, deceived, hateful, and hating one another. And what he says there also happens to be the remedy for any who have never trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Titus 3:4-7 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
The remedy for all the hate is love. But real love for your fellow man is a result of love for God, and that happens because of the kindness and love of God our Savior. As this passage tells us, that comes about not by our works of righteousness, or good works as we often call them, but solely by God's mercy in which he cleanses our sins by way of the new birth, the washing of regeneration as its called here.
If you have never done so, God's command remains for you to repent and believe the good news that Christ died for your sins, and that he rose again the third day. Then as our text says, you will be justified by his grace. The eternal life that follows? That's just the frosting on the cake.