Church as a family
Intro- Church as a family
Intro- Church as a family
Let’s get straight to the point: we all know the church is supposed to be a family.
Jesus himself made that clear when his family tried to pull him into line:
49 Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. 50 Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!”
Church as family how?
Church as family how?
So we know we are supposed to be family. But how does that work? In times like these it is more important than ever to know that.
Fortunately, Paul gives us a good start on solving this problem with his advice to Titus. Titus was leading a church on Crete, and Crete had such a terrible culture, that Paul says,
12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”
I’m sure this particular prophet was very popular in Crete. And Paul agrees with him:
13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith,
So this was a tough crowd.
Paul’s advice to Titus
Paul’s advice to Titus
Paul talks about six different categories in this passage: older men, older women, younger women, younger men, Titus himself, and slaves.
2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.
Older men (and women) are perhaps those who have adult children or grand-children, those in that age range.
Paul encourages older men in the church to be sober-minded, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and with a grounded faith, love and rock-solid reliability. This is a picture of mature men who are justly pillars of the church. They are reliable and responsible men that you would turn to in a crisis, or even just for a bit of sage advice.
These are men who would never abandon their families, never bully their work-mates or employees, and never abuse their wives or kids. You can count on them.
Nowadays it’s popular to downplay the importance of older men. If you listen to the ABC you will hear much mocking of the patriarchy. Masculinity is in a crisis in our modern culture, and a large contributor to the crisis is, it has to be admitted, men themselves. Paul’s prescription in Titus, and everywhere else, points men back towards the role God designed for them. Paul’s instructions are not for ancient Christians, they are for all Christians, including us.
3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good,
Older women should live lives that honour God, they should not bad-mouth people, or be addicted to alcohol or drugs. Instead, they are to teach the young women what’s good.
Older women, like older men, are seen by Paul as key builders of the church. The spiritual and emotional maturity that they have earned through their lives is seen as a benefit to be gifted to younger women. Without older women, half of the younger people in the church would miss out on an important, practical guide to the complexities of life.
4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
Young women are to love their husbands and kids, to exercise self-control, to be pure, to manage their households, to be kind, and to submit to their husbands.
Now, a couple of things in that list might get modern hackles up. Can you guess which two?
Yes, to manage their households and submit to their husbands. These are difficult teachings for the emancipated modern woman, and yet Paul consistently teaches this. Unfortunately, the way he teaches it makes it hard to argue that he is merely reflecting his culture. In fact, Paul often tells all people to submit, one of the most offensive words to human ears. None of us want to submit, we all think we are autonomous beings who deserve to chart our own courses, do our own thing, be true to our own selves. But we are tragically wrong. This idea that we know best for ourselves, and that we should pursue our own best interests is precisely what causes such terrible suffering and pain in our world. From Adam and Eve to Facebook and Twitter, from panic shopping to drug abuse, from abortion to euthanasia, the idea that we must be allowed to control our own lives causes constant, unending suffering for everyone around us and ourselves.
The alternative is submission. There is no in between. Now, submission doesn’t mean slavery. Even in our relationship with God, he refuses to tell us each step to take, and instead grants us freedom to choose in so many, we often think too many ways. But it does mean always considering another’s perspective and desires, and valuing that as highly as our own. And, with God, and in other human relationships, there are times when one person is going to be in a better position to make a choice, and submission involves recognising that and accepting it, with grace and gratitude instead of reluctance and rebellion.
6 Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.
Paul has a single requirement for younger men, that they be self-controlled. This is clearly a ridiculous request.
No, seriously, this covers so much territory it’s worth a sermon of its own. Let’s just say that self-controlled does not mean selfish and in control, it means that you are always following (or at least trying to follow) God’s ways because you are in charge of your emotions and desires (with the help of the Holy Spirit), rather than them being in charge of you.
9 Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.
The final category (apart from Titus, who we will ignore for the moment) is bondservants or slaves. While there is no equivalent in our modern society, perhaps the closest category is employees.
Paul asks these people to submit to their bosses, to be pleasing, not argumentative, not to steal from their bosses (which includes taking sickies when you’re not sick, by the way), and to show good faith. The purpose for this behaviour is to be a good witness for Christ. The picture of this relationship between a Christian servant and their boss is, again, one in which the Christian is not reluctant to serve, but rather is keen to do what their boss wants (so long as it doesn’t go against God, of course). Christians should never try to exploit their bosses. This sort of employee is every employer’s dream, isn’t it? If Christians were consistently like this, don’t you think people would really want to hire Christians (if they were allowed to)? What a witness that would be, which is exactly the result Paul predicts.
A big ask
A big ask
Now, even in our culture, which is not as bad as first century Crete, this is all a big ask. How can we expect this of ourselves?
The secret, of course, is that we can’t. Human beings, by themselves, are not capable of behaving this way.
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
The secret within the secret. One might say, the “mystery” of the Gospel, is that we don’t need to be capable because God has redeemed us with Jesus death and resurrection, and sent us the Holy Spirit to dwell in us who has the power to transform us into redeemed human beings who can behave this way.
Now, I’m not going to tell you what you should do. Instead, I’m going to ask you to figure out which one (or two) of these categories you fit into (many of us will be employees as well as young or old men or women), and then to think about how the Holy Spirit can transform you to be like Paul’s vision of the redeemed church family. And I want you to do that thinking together with the person next to you. If you’re by yourself online, I’m afraid you’re going to have to think by yourself. But after five minutes I’d like to hear back from everyone.
Why is this important? Because this is not just a pie-in-the-sky sort of ideal. This is a change-the-world sort of real ideal that God wants us to live out! If we’re not ready now, if we’re not seeking God’s transformation, when will God use us? He wants to use us right now!
So, go ahead and nut out some ideas. Remember, start with which category you are in that you want to focus on, then talk about how God can transform you. This slide shows you the goals:
How do we achieve these goals?
Older men: self-controlled, worthy of respect, living wisely, sound of faith, filled with love and patience
Older women: God-honouring, not a slanderer, not a heavy drinker, teaching younger women
Younger women: loving husband and children, living wisely, being pure, working in their home, doing good, submitting to husband
Younger men: self-controlled
Employees: submitting to bosses, pleasing, not argumentative, not stealing, showing good faith.
So, what thoughts did people have?
For me, I’m almost an older man, so I think it’s important that I am learning how to grow into that role. But self-control is certainly a foundational part of that. I need to learn patience, and love, and gentleness, especially with those closest to me. That’s an important way that the spirit can work in me.
Let’s pray for one another now.