Scripture Focus: Titus 3.3-7
3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Reflection: Paul’s Stance on Gentleness
By John Tillman
Paul, rather than boast about his religious heritage and his austere religious lifestyle, included himself in this description of past sinfulness. He includes himself among those who were once foolish, disobedient, and deceived.
Paul’s discussion and confession of past sins and sufferings is intended as a contrast between how believers had been and how they were now. But it was not intended to inspire judgmentalism or separation from sinners. Rather, this passage is intended to inspire in its readers, mercy, kindness, peaceableness, consideration, and gentleness. The verses just prior to this, make this purpose clear:
“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.” — Titus 3.1-2 (Emphasis mine)
The implication Paul is making is that even when confronted with evil and sinfulness, we should respond with goodness and grace. When we face people who are violent rather than gentle, calloused rather than considerate, combative rather than peaceable, and slanderous rather than truthful, we should recognize these people are not our enemies. They are captives. They are enslaved and deceived victims of hatred and sin. It is our mission to save them from captivity, not destroy them. It is our mission to address their deception, not dismiss them as foolish or ignorant. It is our mission to demonstrate to them true love and forgiveness, not to enact retributive punishments upon them.
In hostage rescue training, military operators train relentlessly on breaching rooms to attack hostage-takers, without harming hostages. This type of training is high-stakes and high-stress. Failure is literally life and death.
Too many times when Christians address ideological opposition online or in person, we shoot the hostages and call it a win. When we address arguments against faith, we must remember that the person making them is loved by God and should be treated as such. Don’t shoot the hostages. Ad hominem attacks, meanness, violent language, and unkindness are not rhetorical tools that should be in the arsenal of Christians in the public square.
May we confess our past and current shortcomings as Paul did.
May we constantly keep in mind the commands of Paul to his young spiritual leaders, Titus and Timothy, to teach gently and faithfully.
May we tear down arguments and strongholds, (2 Corinthians 10.3-5) but never people for whom Christ died.
Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “I give you a new commandment: love one another; you must love one another just as I have loved you. It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognize you as my disciples.” — John 13.34-35
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.
Judges 8 (Listen 5:08)
Titus 3 (Listen 2:05)
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