Tag Archives: Titus 1

Seeing Past Stereotype

One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.”
Titus 1:12 (NIV)

A while ago I enjoyed coffee and caught-up with an old friend as she was passing through town. It was not surprising to hear her observations of our little town and its citizens. Our town has long had a reputation of being very conservative and very religious. Like most stereotypes, there is some truth to it, though it is not close to what urban legends have made it for people like my friend.

I’ve learned along my life journey that this is a problem with stereotypes. Like all generalizations and prejudices, they may be rooted in specific things that are, or were, true. They are never universally true, however, and most of the time I’ve found them to be a lazy way of categorizing a group of people in order to fit them into the box of my world-view.

Wendy and I have, for many years, lived and operated in both the Christian community and the arts community in our region. We have observed that many members in both communities paint the other with broad brush strokes of stereotypical generalizations that diminish each other in tragic ways. The generalizations only serve to perpetuate misunderstanding and negativity toward one another.

Today’s chapter begins an instructional letter Paul wrote to Titus. While Titus is never mentioned in the book of Acts, he is referenced thirteen times in Paul’s letters. Titus was a trusted companion and coworker with Paul, and had left Titus on the island of Crete to help organize the fledgling groups of Jesus followers throughout the island. His letter was meant to provide encouragement and instruction in the work.

In the opening of his letter, Paul references a stereotypical view of Cretans sourced from a Cretan prophet. All Cretans are liars and gluttons, the prophet said. Paul acknowledges the truth of the stereotype and urges Titus to rebuke them.

As I sat and listened to my acquaintance over coffee it struck me that her view of the world was based on sweeping generalizations. She saw the world as a scary place full of hatred, oppression, and fear, when facts say the opposite is increasingly true. I humored her by laughing at her perceptions of our community and acknowledged that there is some truth to it, but I also felt a twinge of sadness that she would likely never experience all the positive ways her generalization falls apart when knowing, working with, and living among the incredibly diverse members of our community.

In the quiet this morning I find myself thinking about the stereotypes with which I’ve been labeled and painted by others across my journey. I’m also thinking honestly about the people and groups whom I generalize and pre-judge in my ignorance. It seems to me that this is one of those Golden Rule moments in life. I have to lead by example and treat others the way I, myself, would want to be treated; Not as a stereotypical member of a group, but as a unique individual who doesn’t fit neatly into the box of another’s perceptions.


“Iowa Nice”

They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him.
Titus 1:16a

There is this thing we call “Iowa Nice.” It’s an attitude, really. There are no classes that teach it, and no strict definition. It’s a generalization that comes through the generations. It comes up out of the soil and permeates our being, though it’s not universal. While there are always a few bad corn kernels in every bushel, the people of Iowa are pretty hospitable folk. We’re happy to help if you need it. We are kind and accommodating, even to strangers. We’re just…well…nice.

I thought about Iowa nice this morning as I read Paul’s letter to Titus. Paul had left Titus on the island of Crete to organize the various groups of Jesus followers into some semblance of organization. Titus’ job was to appoint “Overseers” (think Pastor) who would “manage the household” of believers and “Elders” who were spiritually mature leaders. Paul provides qualifications, but then acknowledges Titus’ challenge to find such individuals among the Cretans.

The people of Crete did not have a great reputation. In contrast to “Iowa Nice,” Paul quotes a Cretan prophet who claims: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” Yikes. Titus is to find, among this group, those who are hospitable, self-controlled, and upright. You can almost hear Paul’s subtext: “Good luck with that.” Among Paul’s disparaging descriptive remarks about many of the Cretans is the fact that they “claim to know God, but by their actions deny them.”

What a great reminder this morning as I head into the week of our local Tulip Time festival here in Pella. I am not perfect, to be sure, but I would hope that I my actions will always bear witness to the faith that I claim – not deny it. I and my fellow residents will spend three entire days this week playing host to thousands of visitors and treating them to a generous dose of “Iowa Nice.” My desire is that my hospitality will always be a reflection of Jesus, who exemplified hospitality when He welcomed this stranger into His family.

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The Right Person for the Job

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Rather, [an Elder] must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must love what is good. He must live wisely and be just. He must live a devout and disciplined life.
Titus 1:8 (NLT)

I’ve recently been reading Good to Great by Jim Collins. In the book, Collins and his research team studied the qualities of leadership among a small handful of executives who had led their companies from a status of mediocrity to rising above the competition and realizing long term success. Among the list of qualities these leaders displayed was the ability to put the right people in the right positions to maximize their strengths. Any business leaders knows that getting the right people in the right jobs is a critical component to prosperity.

In the decades following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, His followers spread out around the known world to share their story so that others might believe. Paul (a.k.a. Saul), who began as vehement enemy of Jesus’ followers, had an encounter with the resurrected Jesus and quickly became a passionate believer and follower. Paul journeyed all through Greece telling people about Jesus and organizing believers into local churches.

Titus is a letter from Paul to the man for whom it is named. After Paul had shared the message about Jesus with people on the island of Crete, many of them believed. Paul left Titus behind and charged him with the task of organizing these groups of believers on the island of Crete. One of the most critical tasks in this rapidly growing organization of followers was finding capable leaders. In today’s chapter Paul provides Titus with a description of the type of leader to look for in an effort to find the right man for the job.

As I read through the description this morning I thought of a good friend of mine who was recently asked to consider the possibility of being named “Elder” in his local congregation. After two centuries, the practice of finding and appointing capable leaders among believers is still an on-going practice. My friend was honored by the request, and I thought of him as I read Paul’s description. As I reached the above verse I thought of the countless times I have been a guest in his home for meals, for refreshment, and for meaningful conversation. I thought of the goodness and life that he earnestly seeks after. I remembered words of wisdom he has shared with me over the years and the example he has been to me of a devout and disciplined life in his pursuit of being like Jesus. I was happy for him, and blessed to know a person who is a perfect fit for the job Paul described two thousand years ago.