You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.
Having given Titus instruction on what not to allow in the church, he continues in this chapter with what kinds of things Titus should teach. Titus’ teaching should be sound and appropriate; everyone should learn to behave in a manner that is respectable, respectful of others and they should always be seen as people who love one another as Christ would love. For me, as I read these verses, two things really stand out: First is that when we see all of these things together, Paul is describing a community in which civility is paramount. Thinking about this priority in light of our culture’s current trend towards discord and incivility, I cannot help thinking that we could use just exactly this sort of teaching. Second, I can’t help but notice that Paul’s main concern is that non-Christians should have every reason to view life within the church community favorably, so that the Gospel might gain a hearing.
Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. (2:9-10)
This idea of gaining favor to have a chance to share the Gospel is reenforced in these two verses. Yet, for the modern reader, the inclusion of this reference to slaves is a tough one to swallow. It is important for us to understand that the Roman Empire was a slave economy in which a quarter to half of the total population, depending on where you were, consisted of slaves. Even so, the same Greek words* could also be translated “servants”, and of course, the modern-day meaning would more likely be of employees and employers, rather than slaves and masters.
Yet, Paul and Titus lived in the ancient Roman world, not today, and Paul’s intent here is abundantly clear: Behave in a manner that is considered respectable so that the message of salvation in Christ may gain a hearing with the people in the hope that many more will come to salvation.
* The actual Greek words that are used here is hypotassō Which refers to someone who is subordinated; a subordinate, while despotēs, meaning lord or master is rendered “master in our text.
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