Esther King beautifully taught and led us in the last verses of Titus; 3:9-15 in our March Titus Bible study evening. She recapped from the previous studies how our motivation for what we do is different to the world’s and we have a different purpose in doing it; we should go into things looking for an outcome that glorifies God.
Today Esther encourages us in these next verses to imagine Titus and the Cretans are chomping at the bit to get started, motivation fully grasped and goal firmly in mind. Paul is so keen for them not to fall at the first hurdle! This is so relevant to us today in Corsham!
9But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. 10Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. 11You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.
What is it that sucks us into controversies? What captures our interest? Why do we get so invested in them and het up about them? Does anything useful or ‘profitable for everyone’ come out of them? Or do they damage our relationships with others and take our focus off the things that really matter?
Is there anything to be gained in God’s eyes from a prestigious family line or from anything that gives us status in society? Is a sense of entitlement of this kind useful or profitable in any way? No! It is not because we’re entitled but because of God’s grace!
What is it we’re seeking when we argue and quarrel? If we’re being honest, it’s usually one of two things – firstly, to ‘beat’ the opposition; to be right and to prove the other person or view wrong. OR secondly, to justify something we want to have or do, even though deep down we know it is wrong. Is this useful or profitable? Now I’m NOT saying we should never enter into theological debate! If someone is confused or misled, we should speak up. BUT it comes back to motivation, purpose and desired outcome. When all I care about is winning the argument, I’m not likely to win the other person’s heart! But if I sincerely desire for them to know the truth that will set them free, I’m much more likely to get somewhere.
Will engaging with this issue be useful and profitable for everyone, including those looking on? And by this he means, will it help to further the faith of the elect and their knowledge of the truth which leads to godliness? If it won’t – avoid it!
2. DEAL WITH….
Paul acknowledges that Titus will encounter some difficult or ‘divisive’ people in his ministry. If we link back to the verse before, there are probably many because who are the divisive people? Most likely those involved in the controversies and quarrels! Suddenly the task of dealing with divisive people looks much bigger!
If Titus doesn’t take action, and show the leaders he’s establishing in Crete how to take action as well, the divisive person will undermine, poison and thwart what they’re trying to do in the name of God. Leaving them be is not an option because more people will be sucked into the situation and the damage will spread further. Perhaps you’ve seen something like this or experienced it in some way. Painful.
So, what should we do? Paul instructs Titus to warn the divisive person once and then a second time and after that to have nothing to do with them.
The first warning is about helping them to realise what is happening and how undesirable the impact is. If they refuse to heed the warning – perhaps they feel offended at being challenged or maybe they’re in denial or stubbornly holding onto the issue – they receive a second warning. This would need to be more authoritative and urgent, emphasising why they must stop what they’re doing! After all, let’s remember that Paul is saying the things highlighted in these verses are serious threats to Christians living useful and productive lives.
Again, it comes back to motivation, purpose and desired outcome. The goal isn’t to punish, shame and expose the divisive person! From a place of love and care, not only for the divisive person but those they might influence, the goal is to get them back on track, re-aligned with God and his purposes! This makes all the difference doesn’t it?!
Next week we will see the last of Paul’s instruction to Titus and us the Church in this amazing letter.