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10 December. Titus chapters 1-3
The letter to Titus is similar in its content to those to Timothy: both men are given instructions on who will make a suitable elder or bishop, guidance for living with integrity, and guidance on how to teach older and younger men and older women (it was for the latter to teach the younger women, presumably to avoid any impropriety).
One difference is the hint found here in Titus of the hope in the Second Coming. I’m picking that out as it is one of the themes of the present season of Advent. Paul writes: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds” (2:11‑14).
The theme of Advent is often said to be that of waiting patiently for Jesus to return. But that does not mean doing nothing. On the contrary, the call is to be active in good works, as Jesus indicated in his various stories of the ten maidens with lamps, the tenants in the vineyard, and the rich man with his overflowing barns. So Paul also writes here that Christians should “be careful to devote themselves to good works”.
He also tells them to avoid “stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.” (3:8-9). It’s so easy to let our energies be diverted by discussions and debates, whether it is about politics, morality or church customs. Not that any of these are inappropriate subjects for discussion, but if they distract us from the basic call of Jesus to serve the needs of others in his name, or if they result in divisions and distrust within the Church, then we have our priorities wrong. When Jesus returns, there is nothing in the scriptures to suggest that he will judge people according to their preferred style of worship, the political party they support or how they have earned their living. He will, however, judge us (living or dead) on what good or harm we have done for other people, whether immediate neighbours or unseen people across the world. Good works don’t save us, but unrepented evil acts will condemn us.
Hear again what Jesus will do on that day for which we wait: “purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds”. That is the Advent call.