Paul’s Stance on Gentleness

Scripture Focus: Titus 3.3-7
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. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 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, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 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 in 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 previously 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 that contain hostages and on attacking only the hostile hostage-takers, not the hostages themselves. 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. When we address arguments against faith, we must remember that the person making them, is loved by God and should be treated as such. 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, but never people for whom Christ died.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
The Lord lives! Blessed is my Rock! Exalted is the God of my salvation! — Psalm 18:46

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 17 (Listen – 7:19)
Titus 3 (Listen -2:05)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 emails with free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more about Choosing Gentleness Over Violence
The language of many Christians and prominent Christian pastors has followed, growing combative, disrespectful, and even violent

Read more about Abandoning Human Vengeance
As Christians, we must identify ourselves as part of a new fringe that will not submit to the normalcy of hatred.

Praying for Repentance :: A Guided Prayer

Scripture Focus: 2 Timothy 4.3-4
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Reflection: Praying for Repentance :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Paul says that the “time will come,” when people will not put up with sound doctrine. He sounds like he is speaking of the future, but it certainly seems as if there were a lot of Paul’s past experiences in Acts that might be described as people not putting up with sound doctrine.

Being stoned, being beaten, being imprisoned, and being run out of town by mobs doesn’t exactly sound like acceptance or tolerance. Doctrinal diligence is needed in every age of the church. Defending correct doctrine is the task Paul is quite seriously commanding Timothy to prepare for. We need to prepare for it too.

But as we think of these people Paul writes of, who will gather teachers to suit their own desires, we need to think about our desires. As we pray for people who turn their ears away from the truth, we need to think about how often we turn away from facts that don’t fit our paradigms. Let us remember that people are not our enemies, only sin.

Let us pray for our culture and ourselves this weekend, a prayer of repentance. Our prayer today is based on yesterday’s readings from chapter 3, verses 2-5 and Paul’s description of sinful, self-interested people who are lovers of themselves. 

A Prayer for Repentance
Lord we remember your prophecy from yesterday’s reading about how sinful people would become. Empower us to confess and repent of these sins, reversing them in our lives to bless others. 

May we pray this passage not as an accusative attack against our culture, but as a lament for the condition of our own hearts and the heart of Christ’s church.

Lord rather then become like the people Paul warned Timothy of, 
May we be found by you and seen by the world as we are:
Showing love to outsiders
Shunning the allure of money and wealth
Praising others not ourselves
Being humble
Healing others in words and deed
Honoring our elders and parents
Living in gratitude
Being made holy by the Holy Spirit
Indwelt by love beyond ourselves
Forgiving
Truth telling and affirming
Calming
Tender and caring
Loving the good
Showing loyalty,
Sharing wisdom,
Shunning the spotlight
And sacrificing our pleasure to serve others.

May our repentance bring glory to Christ and not to ourselves and may Jesus’ name be praised.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Our God will come and will not keep silence; before him there is a consuming flame and round about him a raging storm. — Psalm 50.3

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 14 (Listen – 5:06)
2 Timothy 4 (Listen -2:48)

This Weekend’s Readings
2 Kings 15 (Listen – 6:21), Titus 1 (Listen -2:24)
2 Kings 16 (Listen – 3:46), Titus 2 (Listen -2:01)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 emails with free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more about Confessing, Instead of Weaponizing PropheRather than weaponize Paul’s words to attack our culture with an accusing cry, we should instead cry for forgiveness and mercy as we recognize that these faults are also in us.

#WeaponizingTheBible #ConfessingSin #KingdomOfPriests #Repentance

https://theparkforum.org/843-acres/confessing-instead-of-weaponizing-prophecy/

Read more about Praying as Priests
As followers of God today, a part of our identity is as carriers of the blessings of God that are intended for the world.

Ready to do Good

Scripture: Titus 3.1-2
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.

Scripture: Acts 4.16, 21
“What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it…They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened.

Reflection: Ready to do Good
By John Tillman

In Titus chapter 2 Paul said to “show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” And today, in Titus 3.2, he implores us to, “slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.”

In today’s climate of tweetstorms, rants, fake news, and the never-ending escalation of meaningless arguments, it may seem impossible to take Paul’s words to heart.

Is it really possible to live in such a way that our critics would have nothing to say? That they would be ashamed to have accused us?

Can we really be expected not to counter-attack those who attack us with falsehoods?

Rather than turning the other cheek, we prefer that if they slander us in the left wing news, we must slander them in the right wing news. And vice-versa.

Living in our current culture of social media outrage (and the monetization of that outrage by social media companies) we tend to answer Paul by saying, “Sorry, Paul. That’s not possible or practical.” And it may not be possible. Not without a miracle, anyway.

In the lectionary reading from the past weekend, we read of Peter and John before the Sanhedrin after performing a miraculous healing.

Despite the fact that Peter and John proclaimed a resurrection that the Sanhedrin was paying bribes to cover up, they could not ignore the goodness of what Peter and John had done.

We cannot, without compromising the facts of the gospel, please everyone. (As demonstrated by the suffering and death for the gospel that Peter and John eventually experience.) But history shows over and over that when the church acts in incontrovertibly beneficial ways on behalf of the community, those who oppose us will confess the goodness of our works, even if they deny the goodness of our gospel.

To regain respect, Christians need to repent from seeking to speak stridently enough to destroy our enemies. Instead, we need to seek to act miraculously, benefiting our communities, living out Christ’s model of servanthood, and enacting his resurrection before the world.

Peter and John were drawn to their miracle on their way to afternoon prayer. In your prayer life today, what miraculous service will the Holy Spirit draw you to?

Prayer: The Request for Presence
For the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me. — Psalm 31.3

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Ecclesiastes 11 (Listen – 1:40)
Titus 3
 (Listen – 2:05)

Resurrecting Goodness

Scripture: Titus 2.7-8
In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

Reflection: Resurrecting Goodness
By John Tillman

It would be easy to misread the second chapter of Paul’s letter to Titus as a legalistic list of behaviors to enforce—complete with injunctions against addictions and stealing and including commendations of moral purity and of showing respect for masters and for husbands.

But these actions are not requirements of the gospel as much as they are results of it. They are differentiators—showing the evidence of God at work among the Christian community.

Nearly every religion promises transcendent joy and peace in the hereafter. Christianity describes a God willing to get his hands dirty fixing things in the here and now.

Our God is not a distant observer, merely passing judgement. He is a present participant, showing the dignity of work by engaging in it himself. He works on us as Paul says, he, “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.”

Even Christ’s resurrection wasn’t about his cosmic survival, it was about us. Christ didn’t stick around after his resurrection to “prove” he was alive. If he cared about incontrovertible proof, Christ would simply have leapt off of the top of the Temple as he was tempted to do at the beginning of his ministry.

Christ invested time between his resurrection and his ascension preparing his followers for the coming of the Holy Spirit and getting them ready to do the work the Holy Spirit would prompt them to do.

It is a uniquely Christian claim that God is invested in our present, not just our future. His Holy Spirit is our present down payment on the future eternity we will one day inherit. And right now, in each moment, the Holy Spirit inhabits us giving us the connection, the power, and the ability to resurrect goodness into the world.

During the season of Easter, we transition from a Christ who walked around in a body like ours, doing good in the ancient world of the past, to a Christ whose Spirit walks around in our bodies prompting us to do good in our world right now.

When we engage in the gospel that Paul describes to Titus, the natural result will be a connection to the Spirit that makes us “eager” to do good.

May we connect with the Spirit of Christ and resurrect goodness of speech, goodness in teaching, and goodness in action for those in our communities.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
For the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me. — Psalm 31.3

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Ecclesiastes 10 (Listen – 2:33)
Titus 2
 (Listen – 2:01)

Immortality and Resurrection

Scripture: Ecclesiastes 7.2
It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
the living should take this to heart.

At the end of tax season in the US, we take a look back at this 2015 post from The Park Forum. The issues discussed are, of course, immortal. — John

Reflection: Immortality and Resurrection
The Park Forum

In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. — Benjamin Franklin

Franklin could not have foreseen Silicon Valley. Today’s tech elite feel differently (possibly about both issues, but we’ll focus on the desire to upgrade life for this weekend.)

“Death makes me very angry. Premature death makes me angrier still” says Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle who has invested over $430 million into anti-aging research.

Peter Thiel — who co-founded PayPal and Palantir, and has a net worth over $2.2 billion — told Sonia Arisen, “The great unfinished task of the modern world is to turn death from a fact of life into a problem to be solved — a problem towards whose solution I hope to contribute in whatever way I can.”

The Washington Post describes Thiel as, “the embodiment of Silicon Valley culture at its individualistic, impatient extreme,” and he is at the helm of modern tech’s latest quest: to end death.

Max Anderson posted on Forbes about Thiel’s recent conversation with N.T. Wright:

“For Thiel, life is a self-evident good and death is the opposite of life. Therefore death is a problem, and as he says there are three main ways of approaching it. ‘You can accept it, you can deny it or you can fight it. I think our society is dominated by people who are into denial or acceptance, and I prefer to fight it.’ Whether we can successfully fight death is a question about the nature of nature and about our ability to understand it. Whether we should try to fight death is a question of our philosophy and our theology.”

Anderson quotes N.T. Wright from Surprised by Hope:

“The point of the resurrection…is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die…What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it…What you do in the present — by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself — will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it…). They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.”

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
We can never ransom ourselves, or deliver to God the price of our life; For the ransom of our life is so great, that we should never have enough to pay it. — Psalm 49.10

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Ecclesiastes 7 (Listen – 3:37)
2 Timothy 3 (Listen – 2:21)

This Weekend’s Readings
Ecclesiastes 8 (Listen – 2:41) 2 Timothy 4 (Listen – 2:48)
Ecclesiastes 9 (Listen – 3:13) Titus 1 (Listen – 2:24)

The Weekend Reading List
Peter Thiel, N.T. Wright On Technology, Hope, And The End Of Death by Max Anderson
Tech Titans’ Latest Project: Defy Death by Ariana Eunjung Cha
100 Plus: How the Coming Age of Longevity Will Change Everything, From Careers and Relationships to Family and Faith by Sonia Arisen (Basic Books, 2011)
Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church by N.T. Wright (HarperOne, 2008)

Spur a spiritual rhythm of refreshment right in your inbox
By joining this email list you are giving us permission to send you devotional emails each weekday and to communicate occasionally regarding other aspects of the ministry.
100% Privacy. We don't spam.