As we explored before, our responsibility as Christians today is the same as that of the early church: reaching lost individuals in a dark, pagan society. And we have been looking to Titus and his ministry to the Cretans as an example of this responsibility. Titus was called to establish churches in a place known for its total lack of virtue — a place full of lazy gluttons, evil beasts, and liars (Titus 1:12-13). In his letter to Titus, Paul gives him advice on how to win these desperately wicked people over to Christ. And in studying this advice, we will find wisdom for living winsomely in our own culture characterized by its own brand of moral darkness.
Today we will look at the first major element of Paul’s instructions.
Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. (Titus 3:1-2)
The first step of living faithfully in society is this: Be subject to those in authority over you. That authority might be Caesar, Pilate, or Herod. That authority might be Stalin or Hitler. But in every case, God intends for us to submit to our leaders. And when we do, our good and obedient behavior becomes a compelling testimony to an unbelieving and watching world.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that we always agree with our leaders. But what it does mean is that we don’t revolt when we disagree. We don’t storm city hall. Instead, we pray for our authorities and strive to live peaceful and quiet lives (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
This also doesn’t mean that we obey our leaders when they command us to sin. Just as our obedience to leaders is commanded by Scripture, it is also limited by Scripture. If our leaders ask us to do what God forbids, we defer to God’s higher authority. When the apostles were told not to preach, they decided to obey God rather than the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:18-19). In such a situation, our responsibility as Christians is to remain faithful to God’s commands and accept the consequences that might come from disobeying our earthly authorities.
Paul then tells us that our submission should happen not with an attitude of maligning, but of peacefulness. In the Greek, he says to not blasphēmeō — to not be slanderous or contemptuous toward people. We may confront sin, and we may disobey sinful laws, but we never do it with an attitude of attacking society. We never pick fights with our leaders. Christians are called to act peacefully and gently. God means for us to be considerate and patient members of our broader communities.
Paul summarizes this entire attitude with the phrase “showing every consideration for all men.” The Greek word here is prautēs, which means meekness. The essence of what Paul means is this: Don’t fight for your rights. Don’t start a Christian anti-defamation league. Instead, lay down your rights for the sake of winning the lost, trusting God to take care of you.
Everything in Cretan society was contrary to Paul’s instructions. The Cretans were known for having all the contentious vices of pagan culture. So by living in this entirely countercultural way, the Christians in Crete would be shining a spotlight on the distinctiveness of Christ and the truth of the gospel. When Christians really live this way, it is amazing how attractive it is to society.
One time I was invited to Los Angeles City Hall, and Grace Community Church was honored with a plaque. The place was packed with people on the city council. Many of these people disagreed with my teaching. But they still thanked us for the impact that Grace Community Church had had on the city. And while I was there, they asked me to speak, and I was able to preach the gospel to a room full of city leaders.
The reason I had that opportunity is because we had lived in such a way that we won the favor of our local leaders. And we don’t need to compromise our message to do that; we simply need to live in submission to authority with the peaceable attitude that God calls us to.
Next time we will look at the rest of Paul’s instructions for living well in society.
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