Tag Archives: titus 3:9-15

A three-step process for resolving conflict in the church – Titus 3:9-15, Part 4

15 Aug

Has your church family experienced disagreements? Divisions? Has your church had to wrestle with how to respond? It can be really tricky, right? Emotions fly, people get offended, and it can seem that no matter what option you choose, someone will not like it, get hurt, and leave the church.

Okay, let’s turn off the pause, hit play, and continue with Titus 3:9-11. There were disagreements in the church, Paul says in verse 9, that were unprofitable and useless.  Clearly, then, Christians are to focus on what is profitable and useful. 

Remembering that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we should want to live in such a way that even in our disagreements we should be Christ-centered.  There is a way to disagree that is loving and caring and in line with Jesus. 

Agree to disagree in love.  Recognize with humility that you could be wrong.  Remember that the other person is also made in the image of God, and is loved by God. 

Paul also teaches a method for addressing a situation when a person refuses to handle disagreement well.  Paul says, sometimes people are divisive, meaning that they can cause division in the church.  So in verses 10-11 he says, “Warn a divisive person once, and twice, then have nothing to do with them.” Paul is once again talking about church discipline, as he did back in chapter 1

Now, though, Paul mentions warnings.  Who does the warning? Paul doesn’t say specifically, but because the letter is to Titus, and Titus primary objective on his short trip to Crete was to appoint leaders, we could surmise that it was Titus and the church leaders who were to do the warning. Because Jesus also talked about something similar in Matthew 18:15, let’s determine if we can connect Paul’s teaching to Jesus’ three-step process, and perhaps we’ll have a better idea of how to handle this.  Go ahead and read Matthew 18:15-17.

See how Jesus’ teaching is similar to Paul’s?  Step 1, you approach the individual, and try to resolve it. If it doesn’t work, Step 2, take one or two other persons with you.  If that doesn’t work, Step 3, take it to the church. Churches have varying approaches to what body in a church should be responsible for Step 3. At Faith Church, our Leadership Team handles such concerns, and I recommend that for most churches some equivalent leadership group, comprised of spiritually mature leaders/elders, rather than the entire congregation, be tasked with Step 3.  So for Jesus, that’s how to resolve conflict in the church.

Back in Titus 3, notice what Paul says in verse 11: if a divisive person will not submit to this process, he calls them warped, sinful, and self-condemned.  They are not truly a Christian, as he said in Titus 1:16.  There he says that though they claim to know God, they show their true colors by their behavior.  It doesn’t matter if you say you are a Christian, or if you believe you are a Christian, when you do not act like one.  Paul says those people will do what they want to do.  Have nothing to do with them.  That doesn’t mean we can be unkind and unloving towards those people.  We should be kind and gracious and loving in all situations.

Paul doesn’t give us specific instructions for much for the nitty-gritty details of each situation.  Our Leadership Team has had to wrestle with these issues, and every situation is unique. Because of that uniqueness, we don’t always choose the same responses for each situation.  I can tell you this, though, that our Leadership Teams over the years have worked hard to preserve confidentiality, and we have prayerfully sought the Lord’s wisdom in the way forward.  That means we oftentimes take it slow, allowing time for prayer, for discussion, for situations to unfold.

Our heart’s desire, just like Paul’s is that all people in the church will grow closer to Christ, turn away from sin, and love and be loved in the fellowship of the church family.

Are you a Professional Weaker Brother or Sister? Titus 3:9-15, Part 3

14 Aug

Are you a Professional Weaker Brother or Sister? (Are thinking, huh?) I didn’t make up the title, but I’ve talked about it before, and I think it bears repeating in this series on Titus 3:9-15. If you are jumping into the middle of the series, I encourage you to go back and start with part 1 and then read part 2 before continuing here.

In this series we’ve been talking about how Christians can get along in a church family, even when they disagree. Sadly, Christians through the ages have developed a very divisive approach to various situations, and that approach has been described as The Professional Weaker Brother or Sister. 

The first problem is that Professional Weaker Brothers or Sisters do not believe they are weak, they believe they are right.  They believe they have the one and only correct view of the issue, and everyone else should view things their way.  They can make it seem like they are very spiritual and very committed to God, and in fact more committed to God than people who disagree with them.  They can promote abstinence in all kinds of situations, and condemn Christians who feel free to partake. 

In the situation Paul refers to in Romans 14-15 and 1st Corinthians 8 and 10, the Professional Weaker Brother or Sister would say, “eating meat sacrificed to idols is sin, and you should never do so.”  Another variation of the Professional Weaker Brother and Sister is “because you don’t want to be a stumbling block to anyone, you should always just abstain. Period.  It is wrong to eat meat.  Christians don’t eat meat.”  And then they try to convince others of their view, and judge those who disagree. 

Do you see what the Professional Weaker Brother or Sister has done?  They have totally scrapped what Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 10 that eating the meat sacrificed to idols was okay.  And they have made a new law where Paul never made a law.  Their new law is “eating meat sacrificed to idols is a sin, and Christians should never do it.”  What is it called when you make a law and try to bind other people to it?  Legalism.  That is the very thing Jesus so strongly confronted the Pharisees about.  They had made tons of extra laws and were forcing the people to follow their laws, and God’s law essentially got lost in the process.

That’s very similar to what was happening in the church in Crete, as Paul mentioned in Titus 1:10-16. So-called Christians were telling the church that they needed to practice circumcision in order to be good Christians. Paul says, no way.

We Christians, then, should not be Professional Weaker Brothers and Sisters.  In fact, we should be like Jesus, and we should lovingly confront the Professional Weaker Brothers and Sisters, encouraging them to grow in their faith.  There is a reason, I believe that Paul uses the word “weak” for the person is that is less free, and that he uses the word “strong” for the person who is freer.  I don’t believe Paul is saying “weak” means “bad” or “wrong.”  Please don’t read me saying that Paul is teaching that those who are strong in faith are better or good.  All are equally loved and valued in God’s eyes.  But I do believe that there is an undertone in Paul’s teaching that those who are weaker should desire to move toward a position of strength.

The main idea is that those who are weak are not be to judgmental and self-righteous against those who are strong and free.  Likewise those who are strong in faith are to be self-controlled and humble about the use of their freedom, willing and quick to practice abstinence in a heartbeat, so as not to hurt those who are weak.  This is vital in a church family.  In our Faith Church family, we have plenty of areas where we disagree with one another.  That’s normal.  That’s families for you.  And in Faith Church we have those more on the weaker cautious side of faith, and we have those on the stronger freer side of faith.  I bet your church family is just like ours. Let us love one another with graciousness, even when we disagree.

Do you have strong or weak faith? – Titus 3:9-15, Part 2

13 Aug

Do people in your church family have differences of opinion about how Christians should behave? In my church there are plenty of different views. Should Christians drink alcohol? Should people view R-rated movies or MA-rated TV shows? Should people purchase luxury items? Should we vote Republican or Democrat, or maybe even a third-party? Should Christians wear two-piece bathing suits? On and on the list goes.

As we saw in the first post in our series on Titus 3:9-15, the Christians in the churches in Crete were having some disagreements too. To better understand the issue that Paul was addressing in the church in Crete, through his letter to Titus, we’re going to hit the pause button on Titus for a few posts and look at a related topic Paul wrote about elsewhere.  Paul writes about the concept of the weak and the strong in Romans 14 and 15, and in 1st Corinthians 8 and 10.  In Romans he calls it weak or strong faith, and in 1st Corinthians he calls it weak or strong conscience.  His principle is the same.  It goes like this: when it comes to various matters in life, some Christians have a weak faith approach, and some Christians have a strong faith approach. 

Those who are weak in faith, or weak in conscience, lean toward the side of not participating in a certain action because they believe it is wrong.  Another word for these people is “cautious.”

Those who are strong in faith, or strong in conscience, lean toward to the side of participating in a certain action because they believe it is okay.  Another word for these people is “free.”

Cautious or free, neither is in and of itself sinful, but if the cautious become too cautious, and if the free become too free, they can become sinful.

Paul uses a real-life situation in the first century Roman Empire to illustrate what he is talking about: meat sacrificed to idols.  To worship in some Greco-Roman temples, people would bring animals to be sacrificed, its meat would be cooked and eaten by the priests of that temple.  Leftover meat would be owned by the offerer of the sacrifice, perhaps to be used in a feast, or sold in a meat market.  Christians had access, then, to meat that had been sacrificed to idols.  Should they eat or should they abstain?  It was a big controversy in the church, because, of course they don’t want to participate in idol worship. But just because they ate that meat at a later party, or bought it in a meat market, did that mean those Christians were somehow complicit in idol worship?

Paul says Yes…and No. If you want, read his teaching the passages mentioned above. I’ll just summarize it here.

First of all he says, idols are a sham.  There is only one true God.  But, he says, not everyone knows this.  Some people from that culture used to be idol worshipers, and now they have become Christians. Those people, he says, “are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food, they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol,” it defiles their conscience, which is weak, or cautious, and they believe they are sinning against God.    

On the other hand, he says, food is just food.  It doesn’t bring us closer to God, as the pagans believed, to sacrifice meat to the gods.  Thus there are Christians who eat it, enjoy it, and thank God for it, and they are not sinning against God.

The issue to Paul is that those who have a strong conscience, who are more free, have no spiritual dilemma eating the meat, and thus could become a stumbling block to those who are weak.  Paul says, don’t be so arrogant and bold about your strong faith, that you destroy the faith of the weak.  It is better to abstain.  But is Paul saying they should always abstain?  Is he making a blanket condemnation of eating meat?  Not at all.

Then he says a bit more in 1st Cor 10, starting at verse 23: “Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising an issue about it.”  In other words, if you get invited to a meal, even if it is at the home of an unbeliever whom you could suspect of serving meat that had originally been sacrificed to idols, don’t bring it up.  Don’t say, “Uh, I’m a Christian, I don’t eat meat sacrificed to idols, so I need to ask you, is this meat clean?”  Don’t get self-righteous about it.  Instead, Paul says, just eat it.  “Don’t raise questions of conscience,” he says.  Just eat it. 

But, he clarifies.  If someone else volunteers the information, “Hey, this meat was offered in sacrifices,” then do not eat it, so as to guard the other person’s conscience, as they are likely weak in faith, and thus by abstaining, you will be guarding your own conscience too.  In Romans 14-15, he will go on to say, that abstaining, which is the act of sacrificing one’s own freedom for another, is a loving act.

So in a church family, there are people who are weak, and there are people who are strong. It’s like that in every church. Christians who have differences of opinion about matters. The same was true in the churches in Crete. Those who are on the weak/cautious side, should not judge or condemn those on the strong/free side, and vice versa. Also, those on the strong/free side should be ready to abstain from a certain action out of love for those who might think that action is sinful. Check back in to the next post, as we’ll dig a bit further into how the interplay of the weak and the strong works out in the life of a church.

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.