Blog - Embodying Truth
SHINING IN A CORRUPT CULTUREMonday, December 08, 2014
Imagine a land where the greatest good is seen as making money. In this country, murders make the news all too often. Many citizens, fed up with their government, rebel against it and encourage others to do the same. Divisions pit one group against another. Widespread laziness leads to obesity from overeating.
Now suppose you could write a letter to church leaders in such a culture. How would you advise them to instruct the believers there? As Christians living in the middle of such a society, what should they make their priority? Would you urge the leaders to schedule classes on sharing the gospel? To press the believers to step up the pace of their verbal witnessing?
Fortunately, we don’t have to guess what the Apostle Paul would counsel church leaders to teach in just such a cultural setting. In his letter to Titus, he described how his young assistant should teach those in the churches on the island of Crete (which had, according to Paul and the historian, Polybius, the kind of culture described above).
Some of us might be surprised to learn what Paul told Titus to emphasize. Believers in that corrupt culture, he said, should to dedicate themselves to "doing what is good” [literally, good works]. He said this not just once, but over and over. Titus himself was to set an example for young men by doing good works (2:7). Jesus redeemed us, Paul says, to form people who are eager to do good works (2:14). Titus should teach the believers not simply to do good works now and then, but to "devote themselves” to it (3:8).
Such instructions were to be given to older men, older women, younger women, younger men, and slaves. By doing their work in ways worthy of redeemed people, slaves would "make the teaching about God attractive” (2:10). And in contrast to the laziness in the surrounding culture, all the believers were to get to work "in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives” (3:14).
How, then, did Paul think the gospel could penetrate a godless culture? By ordinary Christians demonstrating in their everyday lives the behavior that is in "accord with sound doctrine” (2:1). These demonstrations would take place in their marriages, their families, their neighborhoods, and in their workplaces. Sadly, some of the most vocal believers on Crete, said Paul, were "mere talkers” (1:10).
Many of us learned the show-and-tell method in kindergarten. Perhaps it’s past time to get back to Paul’s method of beaming the light of Christ into society’s darkness. We’re a long way from Crete. Or are we? Does showing still pave the way for telling?