“That’s not nice” parents will sometimes say to their children…or children to other children…often when it is to their advantage.
We know what “not nice” is when we see it…sort of…at least in children we do…but what about in adult situations?
I was at an event a few years ago where a paid speaker was addressing a large audience and another member of the audience tried to hijack the lecture…with her own agenda.
The speaker, who we had actually come to hear, because of her experience and expertise…said to the one we had not come to hear…”You must be quiet or leave now.”
The hijacker, protested, “I have the right to speak”
The speaker, correctly said, “Actually you don’t, you are disrupting this assembly (which is illegal) and these people came to hear me not you.”
Was that nice?
Of course, it was…it was nice to hundreds of people, including myself…even though one person felt it was not nice.
Frequently we confuse “nice”, which interestingly is not in the Bible…with goodness, kindness, or other biblical qualities.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to be nice…but we cannot let others determine whether or not our actions are nice based on their emotional status(which might be very unhealthy)…or their demands of us.
If we do…we will find ourselves perpetually held hostage by emotional or spiritually unhealthy people.
And when this happens…everyone…even that unhealthy person…suffers.
If our goal is for everyone around us to simply say “He/she is nice” no one wins…this is impossible and wrong as a goal…who gets to decide what is nice?
A person living in open and destructive rebellion to God…will not think you are nice if you point this out to them.
“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Prov. 27:6
Our goal must be for God to say, “He/she is faithful.”
This will involve being loving, kind, sacrificial towards others…but sometimes, it will mean others will not think that we are nice.
If you doubt this is true…consider this…every child, who has been told “no” thinks their parent is NOT nice in that moment.
Dr. Ed Friedman, in his book, “A failure of nerve” subtitled, “Leadership in an age of the quick fix”
Talks at length about “perpetually anxious families, churches, organizations.”
He writes that they are in this state of perpetual anxiety because they consistently defer to the least emotionally healthy member.
For example, frequently, the leaders of a church would come to me seeking techniques for dealing with a member of the staff or a member of the congregation who was disruptive, who was ornery, and who intimidated everyone with his gruffness. I might say to them, “This is not a matter of technique; it’s a matter of taking a stand, telling this person he has to shape up or he cannot continue to remain a member of the community.” And the church leaders would respond, “But that’s not the Christian thing to do.
You can read that last line as “that’s not nice.”
But to not act is neither nice to the larger congregation or to that person who needs to be treated with the respect that does not allow them to act like a childish bully.
He says that for a “hostage situation” to be perpetuated…There must be among both the leaders and those they lead an unreasonable faith in “being reasonable.”
If a child is throwing a fit…it is foolish and unhelpful…in that moment to try and reason with them.
Friedman writes…”People rarely can rise above the level of the maturity of their leaders or mentors…What chronically anxious families require, of course, is a leader who does not give in to their demands.”
“As with personal families, the desire for a quick fix throughout the greater American family evidences a search for certainty, a penchant for easy answers, an avoidance of the struggles that go into growth, and an unwillingness to accept the short-term acute pain that one must experience in order to reduce chronic anxiety.”
Friedman, Edwin H.. A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix . Church Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.
Titus could not afford to have a failure of nerve…too much was at stake.
To lead for the glory of God and the good of others in a messed-up place like 1st Century Crete…or perhaps in any place at any time…
Requires not a commitment to others thinking you are nice, but rather to God saying “well done, good and faithful servant.”
This will require sacrifice…and part of that sacrifice will mean at times…there will be people who disagree with you, demonize you, attack you.
The temptation for leaders to “play to the crowd” (to be nice, or cool) is even more acute today in the internet age…but it has always been there.
Now let’s talk about balance in this:
If you are wired to be “combative or angry”…you may see this as your excuse to stay that way… “Just as I thought, I don’t have to be nice…it’s not in the Bible”
If you are wired to hate anything that disrupts the peace, if you desperately want people to get along and to think you are “nice”…then this may be unnerving.
But both extremes…are outside the biblical balance.
You will find no excuse to be unkind in the Bible and neither you will not find biblical warrant to seek “peace at all costs”
You will find in the Bible…a difficult, but essential, balance that must be kept…this balance is complex.
But it is less so, if we begin with the questions:
“What is true here?” and “What is right to do here?”
Rather than… “What will others think of me?” “What will happen if I do the right thing?”
3: 1 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.
Before we unpack that…let’s jump to verse 10
10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. 11 You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned
What do you have in these two passages side by side?
You have a leader with SA…an ability to correctly read and respond to what is front of them.
It is not a violation of being “peaceful, considerate and humble” to warn a divisive person…and when necessary to redemptively exclude that person from community in such a way that they do not continue to divide.
The first verse, which commands the Christians on Crete to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient…must be understood in the larger biblical context.
The Cretans had a reputation for a lack of restraint…thus as we saw last week, Paul was focused on the church being known for self-control.
This would put them in a healthy contrast to the culture around them.
Paul wants the church there to be known for following civic laws, but this does not mean they will always, no matter what…obey leaders.
What is the exception? If civic leaders command rebellion against God…then God must be obeyed.
When Pharoah commanded the midwives to murder children…they were right to disobey.
When Daniel disobeyed the Babylonian king whose edict forbade him from praying…he was right to disobey.
When Peter and John kept preaching after being ordered to be silent, they were doing the right thing.
This has played out numerous times in history…but Paul’s point is clear…there are exceptions…however…
Christians should stand out as exemplary citizens of their country.
If there is ever a reason to disobey, it should stand out as something unusual.
Daniel’s refusal to disobey God had such an impact because of his reputation as being above reproach in obeying the civic laws in all other instances.
Now, back to the second verse:
to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.
*This is not about a personality type…you don’t have to be Mr. Rogers…though I would love to be more like him in many ways.
Paul IS saying we must not be arrogant, or self-serving.
Paul is NOT saying we have to always be bowing and scraping…to everyone…leadership is not “soft”…it can’t be.
Jesus was not always “gentle” in his responses to people…but he was always appropriate in his responses.
How in the world are we to figure out this balance?
Let’s go to verse 3.
3 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.
The NIV leaves out the word “for”…that is how this verse should begin.
This is important because it gives the perspective or incentive…that empowers living towards others with grace and kindness not arrogance and selfishness.
It also empowers balance that keeps us from becoming “people-pleasers”…trying to make sure others think we are nice.
We are to remember who we were and who we would still be without the gospel.
At the same time…
We do not allow what others might think of us to determine what is the right course of action.
So, we cannot look around and think we are ever better than others…because we were at one time foolish, enslaved, living in malice and envy ourselves.
So, don’t think too highly of yourself…you were “messed up” yourself.
But, how messed up we were is not the primary focus…but rather our focus is on the actions of God on our behalf.
4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 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, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.
There again is that beautiful balance.
He saved us not because of the righteous things we had done AND those who have trusted God must devote themselves to doing what is good.
We are not saved by good efforts…we are saved for good efforts.
How does this balance help us have situational awareness…how does it help us act in appropriate ways in complex situations?
- It eliminates pride: Pride makes us stupid.
-When we make life and leadership about self, we will automatically miss key things that are important to see…in ourselves and in others.
-In order to be good leaders, we must be good readers…not just of books but of situations.
*Pride disables our ability to correctly read situations and so we are not able to correctly respond to them.
We have not saved ourselves…we are not changed because we are good, smart or strong…but because of God’s grace.
So…pride is stupid because it is not reality…and living in unreality always has bad outcomes.
If we remember who we would be without the gospel…we will not approach others with the pride that makes us blind.
- It eliminates insecurity: Insecurity also makes us foolish.
-By secure I mean “confident of acceptance and love”…not mere self-confidence (which can disappear in a moment)
-We were saved before we did any good…so this relationship with God is not dependent on me “being or doing good”
-God has washed me, renewed me, and generously poured out his Spirit on me.
*This is the language of abundant, generous love.
-God has not just grudgingly cracked open the door… “I guess you can come it, but you better hurry before I change my mind.”
When a child or adult is secure in key relationships, they are able to live more “others-centric lives”…AND they are also able to live in well-defined ways.
Meaning…they are not dependent on what others think of them.
See the balance: “I can serve you, love you, sacrifice for you…but I don’t need you to approve of me…because I have God’s complete approval.”
We won’t get to this place in perfection…but it is the way to head as our settled direction.
This is the ability to live in healthy connections with others, while being a healthy autonomous self.
The two unhealthy imbalances are: co-dependence and complete independence.
Neither are in line with our design and neither lead to healthy and joyful lives.
As he closes in on finishing this letter, he circles back to the main threat he addressed in chapter 1…and closes the loop.
9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.
Truth is absolutely essential…ideas have consequences.
Truth must show up in our ethical choices…how we live our lives.
*But don’t take these important realities as an excuse to argue and quarrel.
We can fight the right fight in the wrong way.
*When I was in Seminary in the 80’s there was a good fight for biblical truth going on around me.
-I didn’t understand all of it at the time…but I knew it was important.
-I also thought then, and I am sure of it now…it was a good fight often fought in a bad way.
Truth is absolutely essential.
Biblical ethics are also essential (meaning human sexuality, politics, family structures, economic policies and choices, etc.)
We must align our lives with God’s will (truth) and God’s ways (ethics, or behavior).
But we cannot detract from these essentials by our foolish approaches to them.
We can make the truth look untrue…but how we approach it with others.
Again…if someone is dead set against the truth…you will never be able to please or appease them…but this is no excuse to be stubborn and argumentative.
*There are many more, but two times in my life stand out in this regard:
-In both cases I was warning someone who was making some destructive choices…choices that would negatively impact them and others.
-Years later, time has revealed that their choices did in fact lead to long-term devastation.
-My regret is that my tone and demeanor made the conversation more about “my approach” than the actual truth…I was a distraction from the will and ways of God.
-I don’t take responsibility for their choices…and I know I am never going to be perfect.
However, Paul’s words are very important for us as we consider what it means to be “blue-collar truth workers.”
If we stir up or participate in debates about details and minutiae, especially in ways that are argumentative and negative then suddenly it becomes more about us than what is actually true and real.
AGAIN: Think balance
We cannot run from conflict and controversy…we must not keep our mouths shut when it is important that we speak…we have to courage.
But if we speak and debate virtually everything…if we get into the weeds about things that are not of ultimate importance.
Then when we do speak the truth…no one is going to listen or care.
Remember…Paul in person and in his letters worked hard to persuade people of the truth and warn them of lies.
So, he is NOT saying we should shrink back from telling others what is true…but rather we must do it in ways that don’t take away from the truth.
I think the most helpful principle in this regard is to remember that we are trying to win people not arguments.
Winning people…to the truth of God…means we are trying to make life about others not self.
To seek to win arguments is to make life about us…it flows from pride and insecurity…versus the humility that flows from relational security.
Now back to verse 10…it is 20 words in the English but only 8 in the Greek.
10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.
Just like in Matt 18 where Jesus gave instructions for dealing with people in persistent and unrepentant sin…or elsewhere in Paul’s letters where he dealt with this topic…the ultimate goal is not punishment but redemption.
This statement is a very practical application of truth and love in practice…it is redemptive exclusion.
“No, you cannot continue to act like that here…you can change your behavior or you must leave.”
This will not be received as “nice”…but it is in fact, being kind both to this divisive person and to the church community at large.
Without truth applied in relationships…love cannot flourish in them.
Verse 11 applies yet another balancing factor in this.
11 You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned
Paul is not telling Titus to go around calling down thunder and lightning on every dissenter.
This is about the person who is persistent and unrepentant…they are “warped” a word that implies flagrant, willful, intentionality.
This man or woman…knows what they are doing and don’t care about you or anyone else…they think their rights to do what they want…is supreme above the good of everyone else.
It is not nice to anyone…to allow them to continue in this behavior.
The last four verses are Paul’s wrap up requests and blessings.
. 12 As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided to winter there. 13 Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need. 14 Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives. 15 Everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all.
Two comments on this section…one principle
- Paul expects Titus to have a heart for more than just his local church community…and to nurture that wider heart in his congregation.
Paul’s requests here have to do with the wider Christian movement outside of Crete…and Titus’ participation with that wider movement.
- Locally, however they must focus on church health. They must be devoted to what is good…to take care of their own needs and live productive lives.
One more time we see…balance.
IF the focus is “out there” and not “right here”…then the local church will fail to be positioned to develop and deploy leaders for the church and laborers for the harvest.
At the same time
If the focus is all about “right here” and not “out there”…then the local church will become self-serving and will implode on itself.
Biblical balance requires healthy local churches that are able to export leaders into the world for the larger Christian movement.
This balance can be difficult to maintain…but it can be, if attention is given to it.
Part of the balance comes through encouraging people in their own callings but not allowing individuals to make their own passions the only thing that God is doing in the world…
Local health and balance is necessary for global impact.
For 32 years we have had people who felt called and passionate about:
-Missions in the unreached world
-Adoption and foster care
-Mentoring kids at risk
-in depth bible study
-I could go on and on.
The challenge has often been this:
-How do I (we) encourage and support them in their passion and calling…but say “no” we are not going to make this the only thing or the most important thing we do.
The challenge for people with a strong sense of call and passion is often this:
“What is wrong with these other people, don’t they see how important this is?”
“Maybe, I am off base, others don’t seem to see this like I do.”
Pride or insecurity can throw us off balance.
The balance is this:
There are many important things for the church to do in the world…God, calls his people to different posts…are calling is to be faithful at our post.
We must not leave our post or try to compel others to leave theirs to join me in mine.
*When we live our passions and calling in community…serving one another…but not trying to coerce others…or let them coerce us…it works really well.
*So the local church…must pay attention to their own health and faithfulness…which will also mean they nurture a heart for the wider Christian movement in the world.
I haven’t watched Sesame Street for a long time but when my girls were little (and there were no streaming choices)…I watched it a fair amount.
I remember that individual episodes…where “brought to you by the letter…L, or O.”
That letter would be a focus of that episode.
I could say that last week was brought to you by the phrase “self-control”
And this week by the word “balance”
But Scripture as a whole presents a kind of life balance that takes self-control in order to be put into play.
How do we live as God’s gracious, kind, generous people…who have to make difficult choices to deal with people, often people we love…
but who are wanting us to allow them to remain immature, or ungodly in their life choices?
How do we deal with others…online, at work, and at home…in ways that exemplify a biblical balance?
How do we care deeply about people…but refuse to let what others think about us determine how we live?
How do we stay connected to people in deep and meaningful ways…without becoming people-pleasers?
Let’s go back to the gospel truth in this chapter.
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, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
When we believe this is actual fact…what we truly believe is real
When we let this shape our hearts…what we truly believe is valuable.
It will shape our choices…we will be positioned to do what is truly good to do.
We must live in connected community…we must defer to one another, putting the interests of others ahead of our own.
We must live in community out of our acceptance in Christ…not trying to please and appease everyone all the time.
This takes training in godliness…it takes balance.
*This balance, by the way…is super important in every single relational setting…husbands/wives, parents/children, work…as well as church.
A final word: Lest you say “I don’t want to work this hard…I’m too tired.”
You will work hard at balance…you will train for godliness.
Or you will experience the even more difficult and tiring hardship of a life and relationships out balance.
Frame this correctly in your thinking…we will work hard at balance, or we will work even harder in our imbalance.
God’s will and God’s way are his invitation to a life of thriving…they are not rules to make us constrained and unhappy.