Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives. (Titus 3:14)
Crete was a thoroughly pagan society, a resort destination for aristocrats and financial tycoons. Drowning in greed and self absorption, the small city-island off the coast of Italy was consumed with high stakes and fast times. If you weren’t a power-grabber, Crete was not your kind of town.
The Gospel held no sway here, and Paul, who always seemed to draw a bull’s-eye on the unlikeliest of destinations, decided it was time for Christ’s message to make its mark. And he thought Titus was just the guy to lead the operation. Titus’ task was simple, singular: ignite a movement that will transform the hearts, minds and culture of this pagan people. It was no small order. Titus must have felt a bit overwhelmed.
Paul left a few instructions, directives Titus was to pass on to those who he would influence. What do you imagine Titus thought as he read the words: Have self-control. Don’t get drunk. Be disciplined. Love your family. Have integrity. Did I already mention not to get drunk?
Did Paul not get that Cretans only understood two things: muscle and cash? Wouldn’t Titus need to organize a political alliance to influence public opinion, or raise capital to provide the economic means to play hardball the way that Cretans were used to seeing it done?
Apparently not. His words were as clear as they were simple. Love well. Have good character. Be honest at your job.
Perhaps Paul knew God’s transforming work happens in small, quiet and subversive ways. Perhaps Paul knew that if the church allowed the systems of this world to pull us onto their turf, using power and control as our means of engagement, we would end up with much of what the modern church has now become.
We are fat with resources, organized to efficiency and comfortably self-sufficient. Yet, with all this in our supposed favor, we are weak in spirit, often removed from the very people God would have us impact and rarely do we experience genuine, God-breathed transformation.
Crete sounds little different from our culture. Perhaps we should return to Titus and Paul’s straightforward words. What if we radically loved and truly forgave? What if integrity defined us, character shaped us and there was never any question of where our loyalties lie?
What if, rather than forcing our way in, we gave ourselves away? What if we made smaller demands and had quieter voices? What if we had larger hearts consumed with a more radical grace?
We might see transformation …the subversive type.
God, I truly desire to live a transformed life, and I feel far from that. Change me in small ways-and every day ways. May I show love and integrity at work and in my daily interactions with people.