Text for the Week: Iron Sharpens Iron

Titus 2:1-14

But you should talk in a way that is consistent with sound teaching. Tell the older men to be sober, dignified, sensible, and healthy in respect to their faith, love, and patience.
Likewise, tell the older women to be reverent in their behavior, teaching what is good, rather than being gossips or addicted to heavy drinking. That way they can mentor young women to love their husbands and children, and to be sensible, morally pure, working at home, kind and submissive to their own husbands, so that God’s word won’t be ridiculed. Likewise, encourage the younger men to be sensible in every way. Offer yourself as a role model of good actions. Show integrity, seriousness, and a sound message that is above criticism when you teach, so that any opponent will be ashamed because they won’t find anything bad to say about us.
Tell slaves to submit to their own masters and please them in everything they do. They shouldn’t talk back or steal. Instead, they should show that they are completely reliable in everything so that they might make the teaching about God our savior attractive in every way.
The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. It educates us so that we can live sensible, ethical, and godly lives right now by rejecting ungodly lives and the desires of this world. At the same time we wait for the blessed hope and the glorious appearance of our great God and savior Jesus Christ. He gave himself for us in order to rescue us from every kind of lawless behavior, and cleanse a special people for himself who are eager to do good actions.

Reflection

Titus is often lumped together with the letters to Timothy and given the somewhat accurate name “The Pastoral Epistles”, meaning letters to pastors about their job. While there is certainly a level where this is a misnomer, there is a portion which is true. This is one of the passages where I think the term Pastoral applies. It is a shame that this passage is sometimes reduced to telling people, “Know your role.” {it is often said in softer terms but that is what is meant] It is a shame because this passage is a wonderful reminder of what the Church should be and how it should function. The first thing I notice is that Titus is essentially told that he is not the only pastor, in fact he is told that everyone in the congregation is in some way responsible for pastoring someone else.

Too much is often made of how this passage is broken down into distinct categories: older women, older men, slaves, etc. While these are real and distinct categories of the first century church, we need not approach the passage as if these are distinct commands to only teach this content to this group. Rather the message is the same to each group and each group is mentioned, not to make them distinct, but to say teach everyone. In a world where only certain groups would have been seen as respectable the notion of listing women and slaves as teachable not simply punishable stands the culture on its head. We are not dealing with modern America where these pictures give the impression of “Teach them to know their place”. That was naturally done in Roman society, this message is telling Titus to bring these groups– women & slaves– into the main teaching and thus the main responsibility of the Church. Titus is being instructed to bring these groups into the full life and ministry of the Church. They are not some kind of second class citizens who are not responsible for Church affairs they are meant to take on responsibility and authority similar to his own.

Why can I make this claim? Look at what Titus is instructed to do, teach all people– no matter their station in culture– to be a mentor within the group. Their is a recognition that certain individuals will naturally have a greater affinity to reach certain groups within the Church but their is a specific recognition that everyone in the Church is meant to be a mentor. That is if we do not have people in our lives with whom we learn and group through intentional conversation and imitation we are not living up to the Christian expectation. We cannot be in isolation and expect to be a Christian, we must have people around us who teach us and whom we teach through the way we live our lives and through intentional discussion. Titus is instructed to make everyone in his congregation a pastor of sorts; each person is to learn and grow so as to be ready to teach.

This passage reminds me of Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” We in the Christian life are meant to help polish the people in our lives to hone ourselves by intentionally comparing notes with fellow Christians. There is an implicit wisdom within this passage that says, Titus cannot reach everyone, Titus cannot be the person best able to hone each Church member’s understanding of the Christian journey, he needs people around him to step into the mentor responsibility. If the Church is going to thrive the burden must be distributed to everyone, not a select few. Each of us is called to find the wise in the Church and learn from them and to become the wise in the Church who can help others grow.

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