May 15, 2019
Titus 1:4 (NLT)
I am writing to Titus, my true son in the faith that we share. May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior give you grace and peace.
During a particularly rough patch in college I got a letter from my grandmother, Granny Boyd. I won’t get into the details, but her handwritten note has some great lines that still speak to me today:
“You have persevered where many with ADD have dropped out. You deserve a lot of credit.”
“No one likes to have one disaster after another… but you learned something.”
“It was gut wrenching, and it is hard to suddenly realize it is over, but it is time to move on. Those days are just a memory.”
“P.S. I’ll also pray you get a car.”
Her counsel starts off encouraging, but in the second half she brings it down. She knew I was in a hard place, but she also knew I could (and needed to) do hard things. If someone else had said those same words to me in the same difficult situation I know I would have become angry and defensive. And if I had heard that same kind of general advice in a sermon I would have ignored it.
But these words were from my Granny, who had almost single-handedly prayed me through college. I loved her deeply and she loved me, and because of that love, she could tell me hard things.
In today’s text, Paul calls Titus his “true son in the faith we share.” Paul had left Titus in Crete with a very hard mission: find local people to lead new churches in a pagan culture. But Titus was someone Paul had invested his life in; someone Paul loved very much, so he could say hard things to his “son.” That is why this letter is going to have a different tenor and feel than say, a sermon Paul would send to the church in Rome.
Given his calling, Titus would need to be challenged. Paul was calling Titus to a life that would call others to a life that the culture did not want. It was too black and white. Paul is going to say some very direct and culturally controversial stuff in the rest of this letter, but if we keep his heart and his aim in front of us then the content of the rest of the letter holds.
We should expect God to speak both words of building up and words of challenge because of the depth of his love for us. Consider Hebrews 12:5-6: “My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either. It’s the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects” (The Message).
If we’re honest, the kind of approach we’ll see in this letter is foreign to most of us, or at least uncomfortable. But hard words are not the problem… having a heart that won’t receive them is. My posture towards my Granny’s letter was I know who is writing this, and her heart towards me is love, so I can receive it.
God says hard words because he is calling us to a life that calls others to a life that the culture does not want. So we’re going to keep coming back to today’s post throughout the rest of this series, to remind us and help us take a posture that says I know who is writing this, and their heart for me is Jesus. And their heart is for the Kingdom of God to come on earth as it is in heaven. So I can receive hard words and do hard things.
Jesus, because your heart for me is love, help me to receive hard words and do hard things, by the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.
Is there someone in your life who between the two of you can say and hear hard things in love?
For the awakening,