Titus

titusThe letter to Titus, another personal convert Paul was close with, was written after 1Timothy, and in between Paul’s last imprisonments.  Like most of us, Titus was a Gentile who was accepted by God through his faith in Jesus Christ.  His association was similar to that of Paul’s Gentile colleague Luke, except Titus is seen as a spiritual son “after the common faith” (Tts. 1:4). Paul, not only he discipled  Titus but coached and trained. Titus probably at times served as a scribe secretary for Paul what with the former’s proficiency in homeland language of Greek, in addition, his roles in churches.

An analogy to each New Testament sightings of Jesus’s second coming is the comparison of each to a pendulum mechanism of a clock.  This pendulum swing is between the Jesus sightings found in the shared testaments of the Bible.  Each a reminder or foretelling that brings us one tick closer to the final event of His will.  Titus 2:13-14 explicitly is about the deity of Jesus, a blessed hope “to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.”

Both Titus and Timothy were Paul’s protégés then successors in churches. The words in these chapters are Paul’s final ones, his last labors of love for the growing new church and their leaders before his martyr’s death.  It provides a message of a higher standard of living in a world.

Titus is mentioned thirteen times throughout the NT but not always by name (Acts 15:1-2).  It’s to be noted,  voluntarily Timothy was circumcised later in his life according to Jewish tradition yet Titus was not.  The point of a topic (Gal. 2:3-5) that Paul addresses may seem an inconsistency by him about the two men.  It is explained in this context: Timothy’s family was part Jewish and Titus’s was a gentile.   Timothy being circumcised was in compliance with the law so that the mission strategy of his would be accepted by his audience (1Cor. 9:20-23).

Titus was a man developed to be a troubleshooter.  He was grounded in his faith,  giving him his authority.  Titus’s final assignment from Paul was to the church that the latter launched on the island of Crete.

A keyword that jumps out in this letter when considering it is the “island” of Crete.  Crete could be the study in John Donne‘s circa 1624 poem, “No man is an island entire to itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main.”  We, all individual living beings, are part of a greater whole, part of the same divine plan whether we live on an island isolated from the mainland or not.  If someone’s motivation is to be civic-minded, part of the whole implies seeing yourself as providing good works for others.  It should be entered into as an expression of spiritual devotion to living up to divine standards.  Not vice versa.  Everything we do influences another person or event. Our actions can have continuing and far-reaching effects either for good or evil,  St. Mother Teresa said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

The letter’s instruction to Titus is to help and inform people of Crete about godly living within social groupings, not just in church.  The Islanders had a mindset that it did not matter how they behaved.  It had no impact on the outside world.  Their world was surrounded by water, separating them from the mainland, thereby creating for some a perceived kind of isolation and insulation.  We have all seen people who claim to know God but their actions deny Him (Tts. 1:16). Paul evokes the essentials of right living because Christ “gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed,” saving us “by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Tts. 2:14, 3:5).

The church is an organization, and hopefully a sanctuary, in a fallen world, so the onus is on them to measure everything against God’s Word.  How?  One way is found in the passage where Paul specifically instructs older women to have the same goal of Christian respectability as he gives to the men. The positive quality of “teaching good things” tells the more mature women to model living in an acceptable and respectable life for the younger women to see (Tts. 2:3-5).  A person’s life can teach and set an example, either for good or bad.  On the island of Crete, good behavior was lacking.

What happens when we do good within the context of society?  Is that good enough?  Titus offers seven things to do to separate from that trap:  be submissive to rulers and authorities, be obedient, be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people (Tts. 3:1-6). Those things are easy to skim over when reading, but by rereading them, trying to comply with them, much of life’s ills could be avoided.

Titus chapter two offers instruction to the different groups in the church and how they are to lift one another up.  I am grateful and fortunate to have associated with “Titus Two” women who were there to fill a spiritual leadership void in my life and enabled me with their wisdom in different seasons of my life.  I never had a formal mentoring or eldering arrangement per se or professional coaching arrangement, yet informally these women spiritually nurtured me, spoke wisdom into my life, and said what I needed to hear and learn.

To avoid skimming is one of the reasons I like to read different translations of the Bible.  Biblical translations are produced because of period language may come across as is archaic, words hold different meanings today, there are not exact English equivalence in Greek or Hebrew words, and there are different reading levels.  Some Bibles are literal translations, and some are what they call thought-for-thought translations.

Coretta Scott King said, “Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul.”  I wouldn’t trade the contribution my intuitive nurturing spirit can make in the world for anything.  I believe it is one of the greatest strengths God gives us.   William Ross Wallace (1819-1881) wrote the poem The Hand that Rocks the Cradle is the Hand that Rules the World.  For me, there really is no greater sense of obligation or duty than the privilege of raising a child into an adult who makes a contribution to society and to use what nurturing ability I have (through teaching, writing, serving others) to make a broader contribution.

The first woman who unbeknownst to her modeled and exemplified the beauty, graciousness, and humor of a godly woman and was an entrepreneur in her own business. By her example, she taught me about character and integrity.  We had discussions about ways to work with people and business from a biblical standpoint.  Then there was the minister’s wife (whose idea was the impetus for this book) whose words I soaked up like a sponge when she spoke to me about motherhood, her role as a wife, and how to look plan and look forward in life when the empty nest came. She gave me a lot to think about.  When we returned stateside after living in Korea I picked up the first edition of The Wisdom of Menopause by Christiane Northrup, wondering what to expect in my future.  Northrup is very upbeat about postmenopausal women and their accomplishments. She helps destroyed the myths about this stage of life.  One of the things she wrote was that midlife is designed to help us burst through to the upper limits of the first half of our life. You have to conceive first before giving birth.  That birth can be about babies but it also can mean the conception of new ideas for myself to do something outside the family unit,  in God’s kingdom on earth. The number of women who did and do outstanding things after the age of fifty is revealing.  To be blunt, the main focus and energy of a woman’s body to procreate is replaced with the discovery of a new opportunity to focus upon: what she can do with her mind.  The brain catches fire after menopause to quote the chapter title out of the book mentioned. The years of being able to conceive birth to babies are over yet now I can birth other ideas and things in life.  An older southern gentleman from a couple we sought advice said that once the children left the nest that it was “my turn, my time”, after years of supporting others and that I was to be encouraged to do those things I always wanted to do but had put aside. That was certainly a forthtelling of the new now I live in, although not how I originally thought.  I have learned that one of my greatest faults when encouraging others is that I would minimize the importance of what was true for me, for my sake, while in relationships.  Don’t get me wrong, there is a time to die to self (like when meeting the demands of child-rearing) but later there is a time for more.

Another mentor was the first female supervisor I worked for, who encouraged me to further myself and finish my post-secondary education. She opened a window for me to help me understand others, what made them tick in their given personality, and how I could work better with people.

A more recent mentor, one closer to my age, exemplified how to survive regardless of what life throws at you by her living example and words.  She does it in a graceful, unique style in the consistent way she lives her life in her job, her avocation in ministry and life endeavors with her dogged faith present through it all.  She was and is someone who expressly built me back up when I felt lost, defeated, self-sabotaged myself at times or felt sorry for myself. She helped me to believe in myself again.

While walking alongside these ladies, I saw them struggle with the messiness of their life within their families and professions.  I watched their navigational ways through a divorce, mental illness, death, blended families,  homesickness, behavior in the public eye, and the Christian approach to the dynamics of working outside the church (as well as in) and how to (in balance) put a person needs ahead of the job demands.

I would be remiss if I didn’t say that my pastor mentored me spiritually both as an academic advisor and personal shepherd.

By extension, there have been two women who I observed as they mentored my girls.  Both were teachers causing me to remember the two or three teachers that were instrumental in my life, there for me at critical times.  For my girls, one teacher/coach hosted an independent Bible study for girls that were her high school students (showing me the benefits of being present in a young person’s life), and the other was a nationally ranked high school coach (multiple times) who showed me how to be an advocate for youth through her tough love  and encouragement.

That works out to having a mentor about every six years of my adult life, although with some overlap.  Now I have a couple of advocates I go to for advice to help me with the movement from where I am (here), to where I want to be (there).  Some of which are mentioned above.  Like parenting, I don’t think you ever really stop needing the mentoring mentee relationship.  I may not be where I want to be but I’m, thankfully, not where I was before.


 

 

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