Thursday, February 26, 2009

Friday after Ash Wednesday

Titus 2:1-15
4Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

9Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.

11For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Parts of Paul’s letter to Titus sounds dreadfully old-fashioned. Train the young women to be subject to their husbands. Teach the slaves to be good slaves.

Other parts seem profound, “We wait for the blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ….”

What do we do with this? Do we ignore it, or do we dig deeply enough to find out what kind of society Paul wanted Titus to reach?

We Americans are near sighted. We have cultural myopia. We need cultural glasses. We forget that in much of the world, men rule over women. We forget that there are probably more slaves or essentially enslaved people than at any time in that past few hundred years. What kind of missionary has any hope of reaching these peoples and bringing the good news?

Paul seems to believe that our present state, whether male or female, master or slave, is not particularly important compared to showing the power, love and attractiveness of Christ.

Does this mean that he thinks Christians should ignore inequality, injustice, oppression, sexism, and the like? Probably not, since in other writings he offers that in Christ there is neither male or female, Jew or Gentile, slave or free. And in a very personal letter, (Philemon), he urges that a slave be freed.

We have the luxury of living in a world with 2000 years of Church history, and church power. Paul was writing to people who might be executed if they raised too high a profile. Paul is writing to a new pastor, who is pastoring new believers, in a place where they are a very small minority.

Context is critical. Paul may hope for more for Titus little church. But right now he is trying to keep them growing, developing, and becoming a witness to others in their culture. Perhaps he knows that as people seek to be good and serve Jesus, that the Holy Spirit can convict, convince, and change them even more than they would believe possible.

In our own day, who are the people we must first understand culturally in order to share Christ with them? Do you pray for them? Will you pray for them? Do you ask God to transform their culture? Do you think they might see some of our culture's sicknesses and be asking God to transform us as well?

May our Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself to redeem us from all wickedness, purify us and make us a people that are his very own; eager to do what is good. Let us seek to influence others, walking by Jesus example of charity, humility, and peace. Amen.

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