Titus, Trucks and Potato Peel Pie (and lots of other stuff) – Part 1
When it comes to self-control, chocolate is my kryptonite. Once in a while, my husband reminds me that there are actually other flavors. To which I reply, “Well, yeah. But why?” I try not to keep a lot of it in the house, because it calls to me and I have a hard time ignoring its siren song. When I give in, I know I should slow down and savor it. But, truth be told, when it comes to how I eat chocolate, I probably resemble Cookie Monster a lot more than I care to admit. (Although I don’t make audible “om, nom, nom” sounds. I have my limits.)
Over the past few years, I feel like I’ve taken the Cookie Monster method to reading the Bible. I know I should slow down and process, better. Meditate on God’s word more and let it sink in. But I just keep wanting to turn the page and read more. Which isn’t always wrong. There’s value in reading the Bible in larger chunks to get a big-picture perspective. It’s a way to see the overarching narrative and to be better able to notice the themes and ideas that keep coming up and how they’re developed over the course of the Bible.
Lately, though, I’ve been feeling that it’s time to slow down and savor. There are different ways that help us do that. One is called “lectio divina”. According to Wikipedia, lectio divina (Latin for “divine reading”) is “a traditional monastic practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God’s word. In view of one commentator, it does not treat scripture as texts to be studied, but as the living word.” It’s a way of inviting God to speak to you through his word, the Bible, by reading a passage, meditating on it, praying for God to reveal what he wants you to learn from the passage, and contemplating what stands out in the passage and your questions and response to those things. It’s by far not the only way to dig in to God’s word, but right now it’s a way for me to slow down, listen and savor.
Since I know myself, I decided to go with baby steps and start with a short book of the Bible, and one that I’d never really studied or often heard talked about much in church. So I turned to Titus, and have I ever been blown away by how much there is to dig into in only three short chapters. In particular, I’ve been hit by how relevant this nearly-2000-year-old letter is for us in our time and culture – especially with all the divisiveness and COVID fatigue that we all seem to be feeling.
Titus, the letter, is like a sanity break. A much-needed recalibration. Right now, our daughter is at college. In her lab sessions, she’s learning to calibrate lab equipment because if you don’t regularly recalibrate your equipment, your results (however good your other methods or intentions) will be inaccurate and dangerous. So you have to keep comparing your equipment to a reliable standard and making the required adjustments so that your equipment meets the standard. The Bible is what shows us the standard – who God is. Frequent “recalibration” by going to God’s word helps us to make the necessary adjustments to our thinking and attitudes and actions so that we more accurately reflect who God is, particularly as revealed in Jesus.
We, as Christians, really need to recalibrate. The Christians on the island of Crete, where Titus was serving, also needed to recalibrate and Paul is instructing Titus on how to help them do that. The Bible Project overview of Titus (https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/titus/) gives us the context of the letter. Cretan culture was notorious for its dishonesty, violence and sexual corruption. The majority of Cretan men served at some point as mercenary soldiers. And Zeus, who was revered there and was believed to have been born on Crete was known as a seducer – dishonest and unfaithful. Before Paul instructs Titus on how to encourage the Christians on Crete to live lives that are totally different, Paul highlights how God is totally different. In his introduction to the letter (1:1-4), Paul describes God as “God, who does not lie” (v. 2). God is faithful and true. God promised eternal life way back before time began, and in his revealed word – at just the right time – God proved himself faithful and true by sending Jesus and fulfilling that promise by making the way for us to have eternal life through his death and resurrection.
The emphasis in Paul’s letter to Titus – the standard by which they and we are to calibrate our lives – is “the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness” (v. 1) that “rest[s] on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised” (v. 2). Right back in the Garden of Eden, Satan hissed, “Did God really say …?” (Gen. 3:1) and he keeps hissing it in our ears. Like Adam and Eve did, we listen only to doubt and desire instead of going back to the source to compare them with truth and recalibrate.
God is the one who is truth. Who doesn’t lie. And Jesus came to testify to the truth (John 18:37). He was uniquely qualified to do that because Jesus is God – eternally in past, present and future, including when he was on earth in human form, which Paul emphasizes in his letter to Titus repeatedly (see Titus 1:3 & 4, 2:10 & 13 and 3:4 & 6).
What stands out to me in these first four verses of Titus? That I need to recalibrate regularly. I am a people pleaser, and I waffle a lot. Maybe you’re more secure in where you stand on things and less swayed by outside influences than I am. But we’re all bombarded by influences around us and it’s easy to shift away from truth bit by bit, without even realizing it. We all need to recalibrate regularly. God is truth and the standard by which all truth claims need to be measured, and the Bible is the most objective tool he’s given us by which to know him and truth.
There’s so much in the letter of Titus alone that helps us recalibrate. More on that soon. (Including how it relates to trucks and potato peel pie!)