Paul has spent a large amount of his letter giving instructions about how a believer’s life should look. Our lives are to be an out-pouring of our relationship with our Savior. Paul repeatedly instructs Titus to focus on doing good, and he provides suggestions on how the Cretans should be doing good as well:
Titus 3:1-2 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.
This is certainly not an easy list, especially the last one. Humility is a difficult character trait to develop around the people we love and like…but to demonstrate it toward all men?
To show true humility would be to intentionally put others’ interests ahead of our own, to manifest our care of others in a gentle manner, with meekness. Meekness means to have a person’s strengths be fully under their control. A tamed stallion remains just as strong when he was wild; however, now that he is tamed, his meekness allows his strength to be put to good use. When we show true humility toward all men, we are taking control of our strengths and desires, using them for the betterment of the people around us.
While that sounds all well and good…what immediately comes to mind is that people are generally selfish, rude, uninterested in spiritual matters, suspicious, and focused on all the wants/needs of this life.
And Paul doesn’t disagree with that assessment, either.
Titus 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.
I love how Paul says “we” – that at one time we too were foolish. Paul is including himself with these non-Jewish Cretans when he describes just how bad off they all were in their sinful lives. Paul wants them to remember that at one point, the Cretan believers were outsiders too!
Our tendency to get wrapped up in “Christian living” has the ability to isolate us from those outside of the faith. I’ve heard it said that it takes a new Christian about 3 years to completely remove from their lives all non-essential interactions with non-Christians. We believers tend to form a holy huddle and do “Christian” things with only “Christian” people.
This is a terrible habit, and Paul wants the Cretan believers to avoid this kind of behavior. By having them act in humility toward all men and by bringing up their common background, Paul’s message to the new Cretan church is simple – Don’t forget where you came from.
We used to be in the same mess that non-believers find themselves in now. And when we didn’t deserve it, at a time that we were completely self-absorbed, Jesus acted in true humility toward all men. Jesus took control of his strengths and desires, and put our needs above his needs, for the betterment of all people.
It becomes easier to reenact humility toward others when we remember that it was extended to us first, even when we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.