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What that little pocket on jeans can teach us about church family – Titus 3:9-15, Part 1

12 Aug

Family.  Who do you think of when you think of family?

Growing up my family was my dad and mom, and my brother and sister.  Five people.  I’m so thankful that they are still my family. 

When my wife, Michelle, and I got married, though, we started our new family.  God blessed us with children, and eventually we became a family of six. 

A few weeks ago, our oldest son was married, and now we have a daughter-in-law, making our family seven. Although, it could be said that we have become a family of five, as my son and his wife started their family. (I think we’ll just go with “a family of seven”!)

Earlier in the summer my extended family got together at the beach for my parents’ 50th anniversary.  My parents were once just a family of two, but in fifty years time, their family was now more than 20, with all the spouses and grandkids. 

Furthermore, family is not simply biological.  Three of my nieces and nephews are adopted, and yet they are completely a part of my parents’ family. Also, one of my second son’s friends calls Michelle and me, “mom” and “dad” because of the close nature of our relationship. You may have relationships like that too. For those of you in church families, I hope that you experience that kind of closeness with the people in your congregation. In this series of posts on Titus 3:9-15, we will conclude our study through the letter Paul wrote to Titus, and we will see how Paul describes the church family he was a part of, and how that family was to relate to one another, in the difficult times and in the joyful ones.

When I read what Paul says in verses 9-11, it occurred to me that we might give these verses the following subtitle: How not to be a church family. Why?

Look at verse 9, for example. There Paul will tell Titus what the people in the church should do: avoid that which is unprofitable and useless.  It seems pretty obvious that people should avoid what is unprofitable and useless, right?  But it’s like we’re suckers for it, as much as we can get caught up in it.  Have you ever been involved in an unprofitable, useless discussion? Have you ever participated in an activity that initially seemed worthwhile, but in time was revealed to be a waste? For me it was phone apps and games. You can read about my personal journey to free myself of them here.

What useless or unprofitable activity is Paul talking about? He mentions three things: foolish controversies, genealogies, and arguments and quarrels about the law. Paul here is primarily describing theological controversies in the church, based in what he already said in 1:10-16 about the misapplication of the OT Law to Christians.  Now here in 3:9-11 Paul is saying that the controversies we get caught up in are often silly and thus should be avoided. 

Paul’s principle for Christians in a church family, then, is: “avoid what is unprofitable and useless.”  Let me make an analogy. Did you ever think about that small right front pocket in most jeans?  Why is it there?  Well, when jeans first became popular in the late 1800s, that pocket was pretty handy because lots of people used pocket-watches.  In time that pocket became part of what makes jeans uniquely jeans.  So though those mini pockets are rarely used anymore, clothing companies keep putting them there.  Here’s the thing, in 2019 you could say jeans’ mini-pockets are useless.  Even when cell phones were small, they didn’t fit in there. Try to put anything in there, and it’s almost impossible to get out. But if jeans didn’t have those pockets, they would look weird. That’s the funny thing about life.  We can get accustomed to what is useless, and normalize it!  We can accept it.  We talk about it.  Get excited about it. Or upset about it. 

How does this happen in church families? The classic example is the color of the carpet in the sanctuary.  In a building project one faction says the carpet should be tan, and another faction says the carpet should be blue.  They get angry, fight, refuse to agree, and the church splits.  Talk about useless and unprofitable. Sadly, there are many other such examples that church families have allowed to become divisive.

Paul says in the church, though, we should be people committed to avoiding what is unprofitable and useless.  He was mostly talking about conversations, beliefs, ideas, and practices of how we live out our faith.  The problem is that Christians will have differences of opinion about what is the profitable verses unprofitable, and what is useless versus what is useful.  At Faith Church we have a variety of opinions like this, as I’m sure you do in your church family.

So we need to agree to disagree, lovingly.  We can and should get along in a loving way, though you may have differences of opinion with those who think differently than you. As we continue this series of posts, stay tuned, because we’ll talk further about how Christians in a church family can navigate those differences of opinion in a godly way.