God is too good to be unkind and He is too wise to be mistaken. And when we cannot trace His hand, we must trust His heart.
“A man was born into one of the most violent and unjust periods in human history. He was born into a world where slavery and oppression were omnipresent, where violence was the primary means of conflict resolution, where most people lived lives of utter misery.
“This man fought the systems of oppression, injustice, and violence with a quixotic and short-lived ministry based on a radical set of principles: equality for all, including women; an equitable distribution of God’s earth; an alternative to violence. This mission would end predictably: with the brutal suppression of the movement by means of the public and macabre execution of its founder.
“But somehow, against all logic, the movement endured. Spurred by the memory of the man they followed, Jesus’s supporters continued to fight for his vision throughout the Roman empire. The vision persists even today, buried under layers of doctrine and dogma, for anyone with ears to hear or eyes to see. Two thousand years later, the mission of Jesus is still being fought for around the world. …
“No fairy tales man’s imagination can create will ever come close to the very real miracle that a man born into the most inhumane of worlds presented to us a vision of humanity at its very peak.”
“If humans are going to find God, it will not be where he has chosen to hide but where he has chosen to reveal himself. It is not in quantum uncertainty or statistical analysis that God is discovered. We will not find him in a gap but on a cross. It is here in the most unexpected of places that we discern, as Stanley Hauerwas has put it, ‘the grain on the universe.'”
“Fears of deportation could leave thousands of people uncounted … Texas stands to lose at least $1,161 in federal funding for each person not counted, according to a March report by Andrew Reamer, a research professor at the George Washington Institute of Public Policy. Multiplied by the estimated 506,000 unauthorized immigrants who live in the nation’s fourth-largest city, that puts at stake about $6 billion for Houston over the 10 years the census applies.”
“There will be no winner in a ‘war of all against all’ — particularly if it ends in a nuclear war. And that is a possibility that cannot be ruled out. An unrelenting arms race, international tensions, hostility and universal mistrust will only increase the risk.”
“Look at the big picture. What’s being accomplished?”
And the most convincing evidence that Jesus has been raised from the dead is about to go to work. Or school. Or the coffee shop. Or the store.
Because you, believer, are Christ’s most compelling evidence of himself.
You are his compassionate action. His wisdom embodied. His good news fleshed out. His ways on display.
You are a member of the body of Christ.
So, rise up! Rise up, get on your knees, and pray in his name today. Rise up, stand up, and determine to represent him well today. Rise up, walk, and be his wherever he would lead you today. Rise up, lay down, and fall asleep with the calmness of spirit that you lived for him today, that you are firmly in his grasp, and that even death itself has no hold on you.
You are a blood-bought believer in Christ.
For you have been chosen in him. Rescued through him. Adopted because of him. And are inhabited by his Spirit.
You he chose and empowers to make a difference today. Whether it is the change you would have first willed or not. Whether you feel essential or adequate to the task or not. Whether you fully understand your role in it all or not. Whether you live to even see how it matters or not.
For it is not about you. It is about the Christ who is living in you.
So, with the help of his angels, his ministering spirits, roll the stone away today – every day – and let anyone and everyone see the wonder of the empty tomb of Christ in you. The Spirit-filled and fruit-bearing you. The loving and loyal you. The humble and bold you.
That is, the Christ. In. You.
Amen. And amen.
Belief & doubt: How to Smartly Engage with the Young Doubters in Your Midst by Andrea Palpant Dilley
“Thirty-six percent of young people surveyed said they didn’t feel free ‘to ask [their] most pressing life questions in church.’ That’s a problem. Providing a space for open intellectual inquiry is essential for maintaining healthy conversation with people on the margins.”
Evangelism: Jesus 101 by Matt Dabbs
“This booklet is written to help guide you through the Gospel of Mark so that you can learn about Jesus, understand who He is, what He did, and find out what that means for you today.”
* “This is Memorial Day in the United States. It’s a great day to be an American. And a dangerous day to be a Christian. … Let’s be careful how we remember today. Let’s be careful what we remember today. There is freedom that is bought with the price of precious blood. And it could never be gained by the swords, or guns, of war.”
* “Remember that violence always disrupts shalom. Jesus died, absorbing the violence of a military machine’s ultimate weapon for insurrectionists – the cross. This death unleashes the potential for shalom once again… something war can never bring.”
Pacifism: * Bonhoeffer Says; And a six-part series of posts by Paul Smith: * Pacifism and the Sermon on the Mount; * Reconsidering Pacifism – Definitions and Positions; * Reconsidering Pacifism – A Brief Old Testament Survey; * Reconsidering Pacifism – Gleanings from the New Testament; * Reconsidering Pacifism – A Personal Journey; * Reconsidering Pacifism – Final (and disjointed) Thoughts
* “I pray that God will give me the strength not to take up arms.” [Dietrich Bonhoeffer]
* “In the past several weeks I have been engaged with the related concepts of pacifism and discipleship in a number of ways. … As I have read, studied and mentally debated with these giants of my faith I have been forced to think, and to rethink, my understanding and my conclusions on this subject. Over the next few posts I will share with you my convictions, and the Scriptural and theological foundations which underlie those convictions.” [Paul Smith]
Parenting: Lament and Faith and Childhood: Why My Kid and I Read the Sad Psalms by Micha Boyett
“Faith is complicated for me. I didn’t want it to be complicated for my kids.”
Sermon on the Mount: The Sermon on the Mount: Study Guide by Richard Beck
“… a condensed but comprehensive moral inventory of the Sermon.”
Advice & opinions: Whose Opinion Matters by Ron Edmonson
“All leaders constantly hear opinions. It seems everyone knows what you should do. … Whose opinion matters?”
Anger: So You Are Angry by Dan Bouchelle
“So you are angry? Well, you might want to do something about that. That road goes to a bad place.”
Church & love: How to Love by Dave Barnhart
“I’m not sure who came up with this illustration, but I really like the way it helps me understand what Christian individuals and communities are supposed to do.”
Color: The Psychology of Color
“The researchers looked at data from 30 countries where surveys, taken at two or more time points between 1991 and 2008, asked residents about their belief in God.”
Forgiveness: Baptism Means You Can’t Hate Anyone by Dan Bouchelle
“Accepting baptism into the name of Jesus means you have to forgive everyone. Everyone! It doesn’t matter what they have done to hurt you.”
“… 17% read religion-oriented blogs once a month or more … 57% of online adults under age 35 use the Internet for religion, compared to 48% who are 35 to 49 years old, 36% who are 50 to 64, and 31% who are 65 or older …”
Texting: The Problem With Texting
“Sherry Turkle is a psychologist and professor at M.I.T. and the author, most recently, of ‘Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other.'”
… the church’s supervisor … should be faithful to their spouse … They should manage their own household well—they should see that their children are obedient with complete respect, because if they don’t know how to manage their own household, how can they take care of God’s church? (1 Timothy 3.2a,4-5 CEB)
Elders should be … faithful to their spouse, and have faithful children who can’t be accused of self-indulgence or rebelliousness. (Titus 1.6 CEB)
Consideration of these two passages gives rise to two, solid questions to ask of a potential candidate for a church’s eldership:
- Do they manage their household well, fostering respect and obedience in the lives of their children? – 1 Tim. 3.4-5
- Are their children faithful, not self-indulgent or rebellious? – Titus 1.6
Now these two texts (1 Tim. 3.4-5; Titus 1.6) are essentially synonymous in regard to what they have to say about an elder’s children, the only real difference between them being that the phrase “faithful children” (Titus 1.6) could be construed to mean that the children under a candidate’s care must also be Christians themselves. Most English renderings take this view and have gone so far as to write such explicitly into the text. For example:
- “… having children that believe.” (ASV 1901)
- “… his children are believers …” (RSV)
- “… having children who believe …” (NASB)
- “… whose children are believers …” (NRSV)
- “… a man whose children believe …” (NIV)
- “… must have believing children …” (NCV)
- “… his children must be believers …” (NJB; NLT)
- “Their children must be followers of the Lord …” (CEV)
- “Are his children believers?” (The Message)
These English renderings are, at best, unfortunate, for they go far beyond what is being conveyed by the Scripture text. While one might certainly hope that all of an elder’s children would be Christians, that is not Paul’s point here. Paul’s point is not that a prospective elder’s children faithfully serve the Lord, but that they are trustworthy toward their parents. In favor of this interpretation, let me briefly note just a few matters.
1. The Greek word in question here in Titus 1.6 is pistos. It is the common Greek word for faithfulness, fidelity, loyalty, reliability, and trustworthiness. There is nothing inherent in the meaning of this word that would imply, much less demand, that a person who is pistos is to be considered a Christian. That pistos is all about the reliability and trustworthiness of a person or thing, and not specifically about the loyalty of an individual to Jesus Christ, should be apparent from its usage elsewhere in Scripture, such as the following found elsewhere in Paul’s writings, especially in 1 Timothy and Titus:
“… I’ll give you my opinion as someone you can trust [pistos]…” (1 Cor. 7.25 CEB)
“This saying is reliable [pistos] and deserves full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I’m the biggest sinner of all.” (1 Timothy 1.15 CEB)
“This saying is reliable [pistos]: if anyone has a goal to be a supervisor in the church, they want a good thing.” (1 Tim. 3.1 CEB)
“… since we have been made righteous by his grace, we can inherit the hope for eternal life. This saying is reliable [pistos].” (Titus 3.7-8a CEB)
2. While it may comes as a surprise to some, it is a fact that nowhere in the NT, and so, certainly not in Paul’s lists, is mention made that if an elder is married they must be married to a Christian, much less a Christian deemed “faithful” by the rest of the congregation. To construe the word pistos (faithful; loyal; trustworthy) in Titus 1.6 as pertaining to the faithfulness of the children of a prospective elder to the Lord would certainly then be, at the very least, “odd,” given the lack of mention of faithfulness to the Lord on the part of the elder’s spouse.
3. Understanding the faithfulness of the children as addressing their faithfulness [pistos] to their parents (rather than to God) correlates well what is found immediately preceding in the text, namely the expected faithfulness of the elder to their mate. The Common English Bible does a good job of capturing this corollary: “… faithful to their spouse, and have faithful children …” In that respect, it imitates the King James Version: “… the husband of one wife, having faithful children …”
4. What immediately follows the mention of pistos (faithfulness) is clearly not a reference to the childrens’ faithfulness in relationship to God, but to their relationship with their parent(s). “… faithful children who can’t be accused of self-indulgence or rebelliousness.” Some English renderings (rightly) make this point more obvious. For example:
- “Do they respect him and stay out of trouble?” (The Message)
- “… who cannot be accused of profligacy and who are not undisciplined.” (Barclay)
- “They must not be known as children who are wild and do not cooperate.” (NCV)
5. It should also be mentioned that this is surely something easier and more readily measurable by the observing church than the task of attempting to gauge the status and quality of a person’s relationship with God.
6. We would conclude then that (a) given the basic meaning of the word, (b) what is and is not said in the text’s context, (c) what immediately precedes the passage, (d) what immediately follows the statement in question, (e) as well as the practical living out of the quest being called for, calls for us to understand Paul’s to have the prospective elder’s children quality of relationship with their parent(s), not God, in view.
Now I ask you, how much ink has been spilled across the ages as to the interpretation and application of this passage, the vast majority of it for naught? The questions seemingly have no end. Must an elder have children? If so, how many? Must there be a plurality of children or is one enough? What if some of the children are not yet of age to be Christians? What if some of the children are Christians and some are not? What if some are “on the way there,” but not quite fully there yet? What if absence, distance, or other matters make it nearly impossible to observe the devotion to Christ expressed by a candidate’s children? What if some of the children are still at home and some are adults now out on their own; are they all still addressed by this statement in Titus? What if the children are now grown and have their own children? Etc., etc., etc.
But, from what we’ve observed here, over zealous or presumptive translation is at the root of most of these questions. How many of these questions would find large and immediate, if not even complete, resolution if from the start the note was simply made that a child’s faithfulness to their parents, not their loyalty to the Lord, is the subject on the table?
Many. And so, let it be noted:
(1) We must not read our desires or presumptions into the Biblical text, but ever allow the Scriptures to speak plainly to us themselves. His word needs to come to us unfiltered. This is a word for us all to hear, including translators of Scripture. And this is yet another reason why there is a never-ending need for fresh Bible translation.
(2) As a church looks over prospective candidates to serve as elders, a serious question to bear in mind, both in regard to a spouse and/or children is this: is their family life healthy, the members of that home being loyal to, and clearly supportive of, each other?
* Now while I realize this understanding of this portion of Titus 1.6 may be new to some and may well be a minority view, I know I am not alone in this perspective. Others with far more training and experience with the Biblical text than myself hold the same. For a good example of such, and with much more detail, note Frank Bellizzi’s fine four-part series on this matter. Here are links to part one, two, three, and four.