by J. Randal Matheny, editor
How to succeed in meeting life’s challenges, be they in our personal lives or in the church?
A young worker, left alone to put things in order in a complicated society, was given three essential strategies for dealing with difficult problems — and difficult people.
These three strategies from the letter to Titus are good for most any situation, and especially for meeting doctrinal challenges and divisive people in God’s family.
1. Recruit More (and the Right) Help.
The old saying that two heads are better than one can be true, if the heads are the right ones. Paul told Titus to find the right people.
Titus was to appoint elders in every town, as Paul had directed him (1:5). They couldn’t be just anyone, but needed to be people of sterling character, proven family situation and committed to the truth (1:6-9). Choosing the wrong people could be disastrous. Getting the right people in the ring would go far in meeting the challenges ahead (1:10-16).
No need to go it alone. There are people out there who are qualified and willing to help.
2. Face the Challenge Head-on.
Though Titus was to appoint overseers, he shouldn’t bow out himself from taking on the challenges ahead. He needed to face those who had the wrong message and motives.
“Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (1:13).
In their Greek-English Lexicon, Louw and Nida’s description of the word “rebuke” is a bit scary: “to state that someone has done wrong, with the implication that there is adequate proof of such wrongdoing — ‘to rebuke, to reproach.'”
Even in the day of political correctness, everybody thinks their opinion is right, but to come out and say to another, face to face, that they are wrong — well, that just isn’t done today!
But it is done, must be done, in the church. It’s actually the way to peace.
3. No Dice? Give it the Boot.
If a problem reveals insoluble, it’s time to move on.
Paul said the same to Timothy about certain people.
“As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful he is self-condemned” (3:10-11).
Sometimes we worry so much about the factious person’s soul, that we endanger the many who could be damaged spiritually by his rantings and ravings.
Paul has little patience with troublemakers. Yes, the troublemaker has a soul, too, but when his proud and defiant spirit refuses to bend, it’s out for him.
Number 7 among the things God hates is “one who sows discord among brothers” (Proverbs 6:16-19). Paul wasn’t wrong to have a short stick with the factious person, because God hates these types! The question is, will we be more patient that God?
The Right Spirit, the Right Strategies
Yes, our spirit must be humble, meek, kind and gracious in everything we do.
Paul told Titus to remind the Cretan Christians “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people” (3:1-2).
The right spirit is important, but just wishing everyone well, hoping an accepting attitude will win others over, is to live in a fairy-tale land. This is the real world, and a smile doesn’t smooth over all the problems and clear the way to peace.
If we follow these three strategies in our lives and in the church, the God of peace will bless our efforts.
by J. Randal Matheny, editor