The Letters of Paul
In this letter to his understudy Titus, Paul makes clear what it takes to organize a (sometimes troublesome) group of people into a healthy and effective church.
Paul doesn’t seem to tire of certain subjects. We probably shouldn’t tire of them either. How Christians should behave is one of them. The plain facts of the gospel are another. He covers both of these again in this last chapter to Titus who is serving on the island of Crete.
Peter Gabriel captured the sentiments of our time back in the year 2000 in the song Downside Up:
I looked up at the tallest building
Felt it falling down
I could feel my balance shifting
Everything was moving around
These streets so fixed and solid
A shimmering haze
And everything that I relied on disappeared
(Refrain) Downside up, upside down
Take my weight from the ground
Falling deep in the sky
Slipping into the unknown
All the strangers look like family
All the family looks so strange
The only constant I am sure of
Is this accelerating rate of change
By contrast, in this chapter Paul challenges us to stay focused on Jesus. God brings stability, direction and meaning to the intentionally Christ-focused life.
“Organized religion ‘will be driven toward extinction’ in 9 countries, experts predict.” So read the headline of CNN’s Belief Blog earlier this year. People today are feeling less and less comfortable with “Organized Religion.” The Apostle Paul, if he were here, would not be one of them. In fact, for him, the churches on the island of Crete were not yet organized enough. The reason he left his assistant Titus there was to set things in order.
Titus, like Timothy, was a younger disciple of Paul. He is not mentioned in the book of Acts, but his name appears 12 times in Paul’s letters before this. According to Galatians 2:3, Titus was a Greek – a Gentile convert. Titus is obviously someone Paul felt he could count on – someone who could handle responsibility. Early in the letter, Paul reminds him that he left him on the island of Crete to bring more order to the churches. Cretans were naturally uncooperative, so this would be no easy task.
The Christian life can be compared to a race, but it’s a special kind of race.
– It’s like a relay because we don’t run alone.
– It’s like a marathon, because it requires endurance to make it to the end.
– It’s like an obstacle course, because there are a variety of difficulties along the way.
Paul is at the end of his relay-marathon-obstacle course and he hands the baton off to Timothy in the chapter we are reading today.