I’ll be teaching at LifeSong Community Church in a few weeks. I love teaching and I love it when they assign me passages to teach from. It sharpens me and causes me to dig deeper into the word if for no other reason than not to embarrass myself. So they are going through the New Testament book of Titus. They gave me a few verses in chapter two. And I’ve been reading it often. Here’s the passage:
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. 15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. (Titus 2:11-15)
Paul gives his reason for grace – to bring salvation to all people – no surprise there, right? Then He adds these reasons: training to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, to live self controlled, upright and godly lives. He adds later that Jesus gave himself up for us to redeem us from lawlessness and to create people who are eager to do good works.
This was a head scratcher for me. The message of the gospel as I’ve been taught it is summed up in Ephesians 2:8,9 – for it is by grace that you have been saved…not by works…I’ve been taught and I’ve also taught that God demonstrated his love for us by sending Christ to die for us. In essence, the reason Christ came was because he loved us, right? Absolutely right. So what do I do with this? And why is Paul writing this message?
So I read it again. And again. And I read the whole book of Titus a couple of times and then I noticed this: In Chapter one, Paul quotes someone from Titus’ context on the island of Crete, “All Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons…” So the book is dedicated to producing a church that stands out. It’s filled with directions about how church leaders are supposed to behave and it emphasizes the concept that followers of Jesus should behave differently
This morning I typed “Counter Cultural Church” in google. Wow did I get an eyeful. Lots of people are talking about this. I guess David Platt wrote a book recently called “counter culture.” Most of these posts dealt with high level hot topic political and sociological practice. Traditional marriage, abortion, sexual promiscuity… I have nothing against that kind of counter cultural application. It’s not at all what came to my mind.
I was playing basketball recently. I play at our local gym. There’s a group of guys that I guess work at night or whatever but they all play together almost every day at 8:30 AM. I get there a couple of times a week. The other day I was playing and in the course of events I got treated unfairly – under the “who has next game” category. I was frustrated and I responded in anger. I would never have fought this guy (that would not end well. He’s built like a house and was an army ranger not too long ago) but I made it clear to him that I wasn’t happy about this. I was steaming.
When I got home later I thought about this passage. I acted like all the other guys would act in this situation. Nobody blamed me. It seemed like a normal response. But Paul’s letters challenge me. I’m a child of the king. I represent Christ when I play and when I react. I’m not sinless and I won’t be until Christ comes back, but filled with the Spirit of God, armed with the truth of the scripture, identified as a child of the king, aligned to a life that is spent pursuing eternal things…shouldn’t my life look different? Should my business dealings look different? Should my relationship to my wife and kids and coworkers and neighbors look different? Of course it should.
So I asked myself, what would it look like to go against the grain here? Today I came back to the gym and before we started I went up to this guy and I apologized. He didn’t get it. He thought it was awkward and I could tell. And it was a bit awkward for me too. But it was on a small every day choice level something I needed to do. What does it mean to go against the grain of culture? Sure, voting for whatever you think you need to vote for and standing up in broad strokes for the issues you think are important for today, but what about in the everyday? Compassion, kindness, forbearance, forgiveness, joy, peace, patience, love…