Take My Hand

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May 25, 2019 

Titus 3:1-8 (NLT)

Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone. Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. 

But when God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life. 

This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone.

CONSIDER THIS

It always starts with a “No!” or “That’s mine!” or the ubiquitous “Don’t touch me!” Then the voices get louder, louder, louder until that split second of silence that drags out as a decision to cross the point of no return is weighed… and then, the scream. And then another. 

As they run into where we are, we already know one of them drew first blood, but we don’t know who because they’re going to blame the other. A pinch, a scratch, a punch. Words have become an act of violence, and I’m ready to send everyone to their room with no dinner. 

But my wife (a.k.a. the cool and calm one) takes over. Judgments are made and consequences are dolled out. Then she takes each daughter by the hand, turns it over, and makes the sign of the cross in their palm. “Our hands can be used to hurt,” she says, “or they can be used to help. Let’s have Jesus’ hands next time.”

We’re about to cross the point of no return with Titus, into the dark forest where no one is supposed to go: religion and politics. We’re not supposed to talk about them in polite company or at the Thanksgiving table, but it’s pretty much all we talk and Tweet about these days. 

And full disclosure: I live in a country that is darkly divided politically, and I serve in a denomination that is just as divided theologically. But religion and politics is right where Paul charges into without hesitation, and so will we.

I want to walk through this forest carefully because there is a safe passage through this passage, but it means we’re going to have to take a path we’re not used to. We’re going to spend the next four days on this one text, looking at it from different sides, and not in a linear order. But trust me, we’ll get through to the other side. 

To make sure we take the best first turn, we’re starting with verse two instead of one: 

They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone.

Let’s read that again, because Paul takes this first step by saying, “Remind the believers… ” There is zero ambiguity in what Paul says here; no need for commentary, scholars, or interpretation for this word between you and me. So let’s go slowly word by word:

They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone.

Must not slander. Must avoid quarreling. Be gentle. Show humility. To everyone. 

To. Every. One. 

We’re starting here because any talk about religion and politics can turn our words into acts of violence, and then we blame the other. So place your hand over your mouth, make the sign of the cross, and remember: Your words can be used to hurt or to help. Let’s have Jesus’ words next time. 

THE PRAYER

Jesus, through your prophet Isaiah you said, “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” Take my hand. I believe this. Help my unbelief. Amen. 

THE QUESTION

Can you place your hand over your mouth until your words can be used to help and not hurt?

For the awakening,
Omar Al-Rikabi

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Omar Rikabi is a United Methodist Pastor serving in North Texas. When not telling stories, Omar likes to watch movies with his wife Jennifer, read books with his three daughters, and work in the kitchen cooking and grilling for family and friends. You follow him on Twitter @omarrikabi or visit his blog omarrikabi.com

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