Our culture loves revenge. Some of the most popular blockbusters are stories about someone who suffered at the hands of evil people but then through perseverance and dark ingenuity exacts a cruel vengeance. It seems like we as humans love to see the cruelest people have cruel things done to them. This vengeful obsession carries over into several areas of our lives. When we cannot act out physical revenge, we often sinfully turn to words of vengeance maligning and demeaning those we see as wrong.
As Christians this should not be so. Vengeance belongs to God and not us. Our speech should always reflect what is most valuable and most important. If we are using our language to demean and malign, then we are effectively saying that the most important message for the world around us to hear is our speaking evil of others. Instead of using our voices to share the gospel or proclaim the glory of God, we stoop to discolor others. What a filthy exchange. We were created to be worshippers, that in everything, in whatever we do, we should give glory to God, but at times, our language does not reflect His glory.
Paul instructs Titus to teach the Cretians this principle. If we fail to understand the Biblical truth of authority and humble, respectful submission to that authority, then perhaps we should see an additional truth about our relationship with our leaders. We should not demean them or degrade them with our tongues, because, “we ourselves also were sometimes” just like them. We acted in ways inconsistent with the truth of God. We did things that were wrong and unholy (and at times still do). We are not any better inherently than they with the only difference being the grace of God that changed us.
There should be no condescending language towards others, especially our leaders, as if they are the only ones who have sinned. Rather, realizing that we too are sinners, there should be a temperance of the tongue. Instead of rushing into hate and inflamed rhetoric, we should weigh their sinfulness over against our own. We may now have right living and may be following the truth of God, but even that obedience is only according to the grace which God has shown us. In verse 5, Paul teaches Titus that one of the reasons that we should not be condescendingly demeaning in our language is because His grace came to us through his own mercy, and not because we had somehow earned it ourselves.
In the sacrificial love of Christ, we have received forgiveness of our sins. That is the most important message, and we should not allow lesser messages to control our tongue. Now, instead, we should be motivated by the hope that He has given us and should spend our time proclaiming the positive news of His grace and mercy offered to sinners like us and like the others who do evil things, not scathing those whom we disagree with and seeking to draw everyone around us into a tussle as if that were the most important thing.
The life of a Christian is a very specific life, and there is nothing ambiguous about living in obedience to God. If we are Christians, we will hold our tongue and rejoice in the grace of God, all the while drawing others into that grace (especially those we disagree with). Otherwise, we will become like the apostates in Titust 1:16 who “profess that they know God, but in their works they deny him.” May we be a people who are marked by a right profession, right living, and right speaking.
Reflect: What motivation does Paul give Titus for not speaking evil against those with whom we disagree (including political leaders)?