January 13th – Unpractising Christians ?



There is one bit in Paul’s letters which always causes me a sharp intake of breath. It’s in his letter to Titus. You know, that very small letter which, with 1 & 2 Timothy, forms that group of New Testament epistles called “the Pastorals”. I suppose that’s because they are personal letters (not written to churches that is)from a senior to junior pastors who were also his dear friends and trusted companions.
Titus is unusual in that his name is not mentioned once in St. Luke’s entire history of the early church, which we call Acts of the Apostles – although he is referred to 13 times in the letters of Paul. Paul was explaining why he had asked Titus to lead the church in the Greek Island of Crete, and to sort out the structure and leadership there. It was intended for him to be there for a limited period before being replaced and joining Paul, who was to spend the winter on the borders of Albania (or Dalmatia as the Romans called it). Titus was one of Paul’s most trusted friends and followers.He was a Greek, whom Paul had led to faith in Christ. We know that because Paul refers to him as ‘my true son’ which was Paul’s way of expressing his relationship as Titus’s spiritual father.
Titus was put in charge of the turbulent infant church in Crete in order to put the church structure on a proper footing by appointing leaders who could be trusted to practice what Jesus preached and not merely to believe it. Not an easy task. In short, Titus was Paul’s trouble shooter, and in this letter Paul reminds him that there is no such thing as unpractising Christians. Christian faith is not only to be believed, but lived out into Christian character, and community.
Well now – what’s that bit which causes the sharp intake of breath? Their own prophets from Crete had said “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons … and that’s the truth” (Titus 1:12)
That’s where I take a sharp intake of breath and want to say “Don’t hold back Paul, say what you think, be direct if you like!” Of course he was incensed by people who made a career out of being corrupt and could talk about religion all day but still live like the devil. Amazingly Paul didn’t tell Titus to avoid them, but to preach Christ to them. He saw them as people ripe for Christian conversion, in fact he even reminds Titus of the miraculous Good News which transforms men:
A prayer: Thank you Lord that no one is too bad to be reached and changed by Jesus our Saviour, and no one too good to need it not. Amen.
Now read Titus Chapter 3.

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