December 21, 2007 – Titus – Church as CommunityThis brief letter was written to Titus, the pastor of a Christian Church on the island of Crete, and it fits snugly along with the letters to Timothy. All three epistles lay out a plan for living in unity in a world full of heresy and paganism. Paul’s advice still has impact today.
In its brevity, this letter does not miss the mark of reminding us of how we are to live in community, and how that community is to carry forward the message of Christ by its action along with the Word. It is typical in its structure: opening greeting and address, pastoral charge, teaching the Christian Life.
In Chapter 1 we hear the words with which Paul so often opens his letters, describing himself as a slave for Christ. Chapter 2 has specific requisites for the temperate behavior of older men and women. Paul includes, as he usually does, the advice that women be subject to their husbands in all things, even speech. This was an ordinary idea in Paul’s time and one that I always imagine he and I would differ on today if he were still here and offering the same words. Truly, I cannot think that God created humans – male and female he made them – to be his image in a way that one half of his creation be subordinate to the other. At any rate, to me the important element here is that the elders in the community are to pass along the traditions which Jesus gave them of living the Law of Love.
Chapter 3 holds several verses which interest me greatly as they speak to a two-fold philosophy I believe and live by. Verses 4 to 8 are an anthem to Christ’s Law and Covenant of Love. They remind us that kindness, mercy and generosity can never be wasted or outdone. This saying is trustworthy. Verses 9 and 10 complete this idea and also remind us that we are to be open to all through our works as excellent and beneficial to others. Jesus brought universal love to all of God’s creation and we are to do the same.
Paul gives the further bit of advice over which we might stumble: we are to try more than once to communicate with heretics or those who pervert this Law of Love, but Paul continues: After a first and second warning, break off contact with a heretic, realizing that such a person is perverted and sinful and stands self-condemned. This is a difficult saying for me because I like to believe that we all have the potential of being hearers, sayers and doers of the word . . . yet I know that we are each given our own will. I understand fully that this freedom permits us to do as we wish, to speak as we wish, to think as we wish, to enact God’s will as we wish. I also understand that each of us is free to choose good as God always does . . . or to not . . . as God never does.
This was the advice Paul wrote to Titus at the birth of the Church and it is advice which can still guide us today.
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