This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth. (Titus 1:13-14)
What “testimony” is true? It is the stereotypical statement we viewed in our last devotion: that all Cretans are liars, brutes and gluttons.
Obviously, Paul is speaking in generalities. Otherwise it would be impossible to find the kind of people he is asking Titus to enlist as elders in the churches in Crete. However, those who were among the false teachers were “Cretan” though and through, in the metaphorical sense of the word.
It appears to me there are three groups referenced in Paul’s letter to Titus. There are the “manipulated”, or the common church members who are being misled and disrupted by false teaching. The sincere desire of these dear folks to do the right thing makes them easy “prey” for those who bind them with unnecessary rules and regulations, and targets to be “played” for the selfish purposes of others.
Those who “prey” and “play” are the “manipulators.” They are a part of the church family, but have both eyes on personal success and care less about the welfare of the church than their own advancement.
And finally, there are the “instigators.” These are most likely not a part of the church family, but continue to pressure the “manipulators” and reward them accordingly when they comply.
These are only my characterizations, but hopefully they help you see the complexity of the situation. The “manipulated” in Crete needed to be warned, the “manipulators” needed to be rebuked, and the “instigators” needed to be stopped, or at the very least marginalized.
This morning’s passage is about the “manipulators.” They are those who are a part of the church body, but have been influenced by friends and relatives who want them to make their faith in Jesus more palatable to the broader religious community. As a result of this influence in their lives, they have allowed the blood of Jesus to become less sufficient and the expectations of man to make them fearful.
The “manipulators” are to be rebuked that they might be “sound in the faith.” You see, a well orchestrated rebuke always has restoration as the ultimate goal. In fact, if successful, those who are able to see the error of their theology and thinking are better prepared to protect the church. In this case, once those who were trying to bind their brothers and sisters with unnecessary rules and regulations realized they were trivializing the blood of Jesus, they would be better equipped to identify legalism and more committed to elevating the teaching of the cross.
Sometimes, the best leadership lessons emerge from the worst circumstances.
Dear God, help us understand the wideness of Your grace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.