"Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone."
It’s a difficult time: The ruling caesars are worshipped as saviours, the Roman authorities enslave hundreds of thousands of people, and colosseums are full.
Chuck Swindoll suggests, “Paul writes this letter to Titus from Nicopolis in AD 63, after his first Roman imprisonment”.
Christians are viewed as being anything from suspicious to subversive.
It’s a difficult place, Crete. If debauchery, corruption, and deception had a home in the Roman Empire it would be the island of Crete.
Across the island, the churches are being disrupted by false teachers peddling their distractions.
At this difficult time, in this difficult place, facing the disruption of difficult people, what does Paul commend to Titus to commend to the churches?
- He reminds them to be good citizens (3:1)
- He reminds them to be citizens of the Empire and of the Church who do good (3:2)
- He reminds them that the good they are to do, within the church and society, is to be marked by God’s grace, gentleness, and kindness (3:4)
This understanding of citizenship flows from a new understanding of who their real saviour actually is. God, in his grace and kindness, has revealed their true saviour Lord Jesus (3:3-8).
They are to be good subjects, and true servants of the real saviour Jesus.
Here’s the tension.
Doing good works to reflect Jesus, serving society and honouring the State, may mean loving society and the State in ways that they don’t reciprocate!
It may mean doing good works and still being perceived as the "bad guys"
It is evident that the New Zealand Church (and its support ministries, campsites, schools, and community trusts) is heading into un-chartered territory in relation to its relationship with New Zealand society and the New Zealand State.
The deepest and richest resource we have to reflect on this coming season is the New Testament. The New Testament churches are constantly encountering Jesus and wrestling with how to relate to the complex social and political challenges.
Can I commend to you, as leadership communities, to be reading together a short book by Australian Pastor Stephen McAlpine called Being the Bad guys: How to live for Jesus when the world says you shouldn’t.
This is an easy-to-read book. It identifies the shift in society we are undergoing; and will help you understand it better, and prepare you for what’s ahead.
Lastly, the book invites us to continue living good lives and to speak Jesus’ good news in gentleness and kindness.