10 In fact, there are many who are rebellious people, loudmouths, and deceivers, especially some of those who are Jewish believers [Or from the circumcision]. 11 They must be silenced because they upset entire households. They teach what they shouldn’t to make money dishonestly. 12 Someone who is one of their own prophets said, “People from Crete are always liars, wild animals, and lazy gluttons.” 13 This statement is true. Because of this, correct them firmly, so that they can be healthy in their faith. 14 They shouldn’t pay attention to Jewish myths and commands from people who reject the truth. 15 Everything is clean to those who are clean, but nothing is clean to those who are corrupt and without faith. Instead, their mind and conscience are corrupted. 16 They claim to know God, but they deny God by the things that they do. They are detestable, disobedient, and disqualified to do anything good.
The apostle Paul’s blunt words about the people of Crete may sound offensive. But he was just echoing his day’s common opinion: “So notorious were the Cretans that the Greeks actually formed a verb krētizein, to cretize, which meant to lie and to cheat.”* Some scholars also think Paul was being wryly ironic: he quoted a poet (named Epimenedes) from Crete who wrote that people from Crete were “always liars.” So was the poet lying about that!?
- The “deceivers” Paul urged Titus to correct seem to have been similar to the false teachers he warned his Galatian converts about (cf. Galatians1:6-9, 5:1-6). They evidently said there was an “inner circle” of Christians who knew much more than the simple gospel of God’s grace, maybe even that grace wasn’t enough for salvation. Verse 11 (“silenced”) used a Greek verb that meant “showed to be wrong,” not physical restraint or violence. How can we, like Titus, stand for what is right without becoming arrogant or intolerant?
- Scholar William Barclay noted that, knowing the bad reputation of the people of Crete, Paul did not tell Titus, “‘Leave them alone. They are hopeless and all men know it.’ He says: ‘They are bad and all men know it. Go and convert them’…. It is the Christian conviction that there is no sin too great for the grace of Jesus Christ to conquer.”** What light does that cast on how God wants us to relate to even hard to reach people?
Dear Jesus, I may never face an audience as challenging as Titus did. But teach me how to relate to any challenging person in the same spirit that Paul described to Titus. Amen.
* William Barclay, Daily Study Bible Series: The Letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon (Revised Edition). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1975, pp. 243.
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Brandon Gregory is a volunteer for the worship and missions teams at Church of the Resurrection. He helps lead worship at Leawood's modern worship services, as well as at the West and Downtown services, and is involved with the Malawi missions team at home.