I wonder how it is that you can really tell if a person is a Christian.
They have a Bible in their home?
There is a Jesus bumper sticker on their car?
Is that what shows up as an identifier of adherence to the Christian faith?
They show up for church on the weekends?
They give money to charities that share the message of Jesus?
Is it possible for a person to do these actions and not actually be a Christian?
We often say that Christian faith is connected to a personal relationship with Jesus.
We know and accept and believe that Jesus is the one who sacrificed himself to take away the guilt of our sin, and we now have direct access to God as his loved and adopted sons and daughters.
We are connected with Jesus through the gift of the Holy Spirit given to the church.
We have a communion with God through Jesus.
But how does this show up as something visibly different and unique in the kind of people we are in this world?
Think of another type of example for a moment.
You can always spot a person who is Amish by characteristics of their outward appearance.
The kind of clothes that they choose to wear and the horse-&-buggy often give an indicator to the presence of Amish people.
If a person is Amish, it shows up in the way they live.
But how does that work in the life of a Christian?
What are the outward indicators of Christian faith in the life of someone who follows Jesus?
In other words, how am I supposed to live now that I am a Christian?
Does being a Christian make a difference at all in how I choose to live?
When Monday morning rolls around and you head to office or into school or wherever you go spend your time during the week, how does your faith show up in those places?
What is it about the Christian faith that affects the kind of person we are all the time and in every place we go?
We are going to crack into that question over the next three weeks by looking at the particular example of one person: Titus.
The apostle Paul had several companions who worked alongside of him during his various missionary trips to plant new churches.
Titus was one of those companions.
The Bible includes one letter that Paul wrote to Titus with instructions for a particular task.
On one of Paul’s journeys, he stopped and spent some time on the island of Crete.
After Paul had planted a new church there on Crete, he left Titus behind keep working with the new believers there.
The letter of Titus captures a summary of Paul’s instruction for how Titus should be working with these Cretan Christians to live together as followers of Jesus.
Paul is telling Titus; this is what a life of faith should look like in the people who follow Jesus.
Hearts of Goodness
orthodoxy = right doctrine (belief)
Today we start in with chapter one of Titus.
Let me give a snapshot.
There is an introduction to the letter, there are instructions for the elders—those who are looked upon as the leaders of the Christian community.
And there are instructions for those who fail to live in ways that adhere to these standards for the Christian community.
Introductions to letters in the time of Paul were pretty straightforward and common.
It starts with identifying the author, Paul.
Then names the recipient, Titus.
And generally follows with a few words of peace or well-wishes for those receiving the letter.
You see all of this in the way Paul writes this letter to Titus.
how do the things that I believe make a difference in the world?
From there Paul wastes no time jumping right in.
He reminds Titus, you are there on Crete to make a difference in that place.
Sure, maybe the particular assignment begins with finding and appointing elders in the villages.
Maybe that is not an assignment to which we can all relate; that might not be on your task list for this week.
But before you write off this letter to Titus as unrelatable and irrelevant for our world today, step back and consider the larger picture of the narrative.
Paul is calling Titus to take his Christian faith and make a difference in the world.
Titus is placed on this small Mediterranean island to make a difference there.
You and I each have places in this world in which we live where we are called as people of faith to make a difference in those places.
That is how this message to Titus is also a message to us.
Alright then, let’s pay attention to how it is Paul is going to work his way into this rather huge topic of living a faith that makes a difference in world around you.
He starts with some attention towards embracing the right belief in his heart.
We have a word for that in church theology.
We call it orthodoxy.
It means right belief or right doctrine.
Paul wants to make sure Titus and the new Christians on Crete are receiving the right teaching.
starts local - faithful integrity in the household family
At first glance, this string of items that Titus is supposed to bring as qualifications for elders maybe appears random.
It starts off with something about family relationships.
The older NIV Bibles say that elders are the husbands of just one wife.
The newer NIV update states it as “faithful to his wife” which is a better and more clear understanding of the Greek text.
It is not a comment on polygamy or divorce and remarriage.
It is a comment on fidelity to the marriage vows within the household.
In the same way, the instructions on having children who believe is understood the same way.
The Greek word for faith and belief is the same.
This is where I think your English Bibles would have been a little more clear to keep consistent English words for the same Greek word.
The emphasis of Paul in this section is not to comment upon the Christian beliefs of the children, but on the faithfulness of the children within the integrity of the household family.
The local family is the place Paul uses as his launching point for guiding Titus.
If you want to pursue a Christian faith that makes a difference in the world around you, begin by making a difference in your own home.
Be faithful in keeping integrity among your own family first; because if you cannot hold to some level standard of faithful integrity with your household family, you will certainly also struggle to hold faithful integrity among the larger church family and community surrounding you.
verses 7-8 lists of contrasting vices and virtues
From there the letter runs with two comparative lists.
The first list in verse seven names negative qualities that should be avoided: overbearing, quick-tempered, drunkenness, violent, dishonest gain.
And then verse eight flips with a list of qualities that are embraced: hospitable, one who loves what is good, self-controlled, upright, holy, disciplined.
philagothos = lover of goodness — not in personal piety or moral behavior, but expressed outwardly within society
Let me just pick on one of these as a way of explaining what these lists are really about.
One who loves what is good; some other English translations state it as a lover of goodness.
This one in particular caught my attention.
In Greek it is actually just one word; philagathos.
First of all, it caught my attention because I had never heard of this Greek word before.
After a little digging I discovered that this word only shows up one time in the entire Bible, right here in Titus 1:8.
But it is a word that is used plenty in writings of classical Greek philosophy.
And it is always used as a quality of someone who strives for and is regarded within the highest possible goodness.
It is not a goodness of personal piety or moral behavior.
It is a goodness that is reflected as a virtue among community, a goodness towards society, a goodness that is connected with just and honest integrity.
Think of the similarity of philagathos to another Greek word that maybe we have all heard before; philanthropy.
A philanthropist is someone who dedicates themselves to giving heavily towards causes of bettering mankind.
The word philanthropy itself comes from two words; Anthropos, meaning mankind or humanity, and phila, meaning love or admiration.
A philanthropist is someone who carries the quality of possessing a love and concern for the betterment of humanity.
But a philanthropist is also someone who carries this virtue into action.
It describes both the virtue and quality within the person; and it also describes the kind of action that is evident in the life of that person which stems from and flow out from that virtue.
A philagothos that is identified here in Titus is a person who loves goodness as its own virtue.
But it is also a person whose actions stem from and flow from this virtue of goodness.
character — qualities or virtues that express themselves outwardly in the way we live
“Christian life in the present, with its responsibilities and particular callings, is to be understood and shaped in relation to the final goal for which we have been made and redeemed.
The better we understand that goal, the better we shall understand the path toward it.”
- N.T. Wright
We have a word for that.
We call it character.