Titus 3:1-2 Gospel Citizenship

Sun, 12/07/2015 - 10:30 -- James Oakley

God’s grace is a wonderful thing. It runs all the way through the Bible, from beginning to end. God’s blessing, his kindness, his goodness, his forgiveness are not things we could ever earn. We don’t have to, because God delights to give us these things free of charge. We don’t even get to chip in and pay for the drinks. God’s kindness is free. All we have to do is say yes, and receive it.

It’s free for us, because Jesus paid the full price when he died on the cross. His death did everything that was necessary for God to forgive us, give us new birth, adopt us as his children, give us the sure hope of heaven. It’s all been done, paid in full, so we have nothing left to pay.

Many people misunderstand God. They think you have to be good, earn your way into heaven. That’s completely wrong. God’s grace is free. God’s grace is a wonderful thing.

But if you talk about it enough, there’s a danger people go to the other extreme, and misunderstand God again. We don’t need to be good in order to earn God’s approval. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need to be good. It does matter how we live.

In Titus chapter 2, we discovered that God’s grace teaches us to say “no” to lifestyles that God is not pleased with. God’s grace trains us to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Jesus to come back.

Earlier in chapter 2, Paul had spelt out what that upright, godly living will looks like within the family. And now today, he carries on unpacking how a Christian should live, thinking now about the wider world.

But let’s not forget grace. This is not what it means for Logan to be a Christian. We’re not saying that he’s doing fine, as long as he grows up living like this. No: A Christian is someone who trusts Jesus, receives the free gift of God’s kindness and forgiveness, and then responds by living like this. If Logan grows up to follow Jesus, this is some of what that will look like.

What, then, do we learn here about godly Christian living? Three things we should be:

Be an obedient citizen

First, be an obedient citizen. An obedient citizen.

Verse 1: Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient.

This is nothing new for them, and it shouldn’t be for us. Titus is to remind them, not teach them this for the first time. We are to be subject to the rulers, and to those in authority. And that means we’re to be obedient – we’re to do what we’re told.

When you become a Christian, you confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. That’s to say, Jesus of Nazareth is in charge of heaven and earth. What he says goes.

So if he’s in charge, what are those other people doing who hold positions of authority? Why do we need police officers, members of parliament, tax officials, traffic wardens to tell us what to do? We take our orders from Jesus, don’t we?

The answer is: Yes, we do. And as Paul explains elsewhere, all those other people only have any authority at all because Jesus has given them some of his. They have delegated authority. The police, the government, the magistrate, the judiciary – those institutions were put in place by God. To disobey them is to disobey God. Yes, Jesus Christ is Lord. That’s not a reason to ignore the other people who have authority over us. It’s a reason to obey them.

But then we have to ask: What if we’re asked to do something that is against what God says in the Bible? Do we have to obey the authorities then?

The answer is “no” – provided that’s really what you’re being asked to do. Shortly after Jesus rose from the dead, Peter and John were asked to stop telling people about Jesus. They replied, “We must obey God, rather than men”. If the reason we do what we’re told is because Jesus tells us to, we obviously don’t have to do that when we’re told to do something that we Jesus has told us he wouldn’t want. And even when the right thing is to disobey, we’re still subject to them. We graciously pay the fine, go to prison, or whatever it is.

Paul doesn’t dwell on those times when we’re told to do the wrong thing. Partly this was written in an era when the Roman empire was fairly well-disposed towards Christians. And partly if we add too many qualifications and exceptions, we miss the main point. Which is: Do what you’re told.

We need to hear this today. In the old days, there was a great respect for authority in this country. That’s changing, and particularly in the younger generations there’s a disrespect for authority. We don’t trust them anymore. It’s fashionable in certain circles to be slightly “anti-establishment”.

I don’t know how many of you have seen the Lego Movie. If you haven’t, do so – it’s awesome. There’s a subtle subtext going on in there, and the film taps into our culture. The world would be boring if everyone just did what they were told. On the face of it, it’s about Lego, not people. Be creative, don’t just follow the instruction leaflets. But then the characters in the movie prove the same philosophy – don’t just do what those in authority tell you to do. That’s restrictive.

There’s an irony in all this, of course. The people who tell us not to do everything we’re told expect us to do what they tell us. We can trust their authority, just not everybody else’s. Which is why Lego make kits so you can build some of the beautiful models you see in the movie. Complete with instructions.

Actually, the attitude behind this is nothing new. The heart of sin is the desire to be in charge. I will do what I want. And I don’t want anybody else to tell me what to do.

You become a Christian, and that changes. You’re not in charge now; Jesus is. And therefore it’s time to get rid of the attitude that says, “I don’t want anyone else to tell me how to live my life”. There are certain people that Jesus has put in post. They may not always do a good job, but it’s their task to tell us what to do in certain spheres of life, and it’s our duty to obey them.

There’s one aspect of godly Christian living: Be an obedient citizen.

Be a good person

Second, be a good person. A good person.

Excuse the rather bland heading. The trouble is that what Paul asks next is so general it’s hard to pin it down more exactly. Verse 1 goes on: To be ready to do whatever is good.

Living out your Christian faith is not just about obeying the authorities. There’s more to it as well. At the very least, we’re to be good citizens. If something needs doing to help make the community a better place, Christians should be at the forefront of it. We should be found throughout the community, volunteering in the sports clubs, the village societies, helping out at the school, or whatever it is.

There would be other days when I’d want to make the point that we mustn’t be so involved in other activities that we don’t have time to commit to serving in church. But today isn’t one of those days. Today’s Bible reading says that we shouldn’t be so immersed in church that we’re never willing to help out where help is needed.

And of course it’s wider than just being a good citizen. We are to be ready to do something good, whenever it needs to be done. If neighbours need a favour, a pet looking after or their garden watering while they go on holiday, children picking up from school – yes, I know that none of us have limitless time, but they ought to find that their Christian neighbours are often the most willing to help.

And, again, this flows from the good news that we’ve believed. We’ve received God’s kindness, as an unqualified free gift. As those who have been shown the greatest kindness, we should be the experts at showing the same thing to others.

The language of this verse reminds me of the Scout motto. We’re to be ready to do whatever is good. The Scout motto, I’m sure you know is “Be Prepared”. As Baden Powell explained it that means ready in mind. Trained to obey. Always thinking through how we could help. Thinking through what might go wrong. But also ready in body – making sure we’re in a fit state to do good whenever the need arises.

Now, there’s more to being a Christian than to being a good Boy Scout. But our preparedness, our readiness, should be the envy of every Scout and Guide the length of this country. We should always be thinking: What might need doing around here to make this corner of the world a slightly better place? How could I make sure I’m in a position to help? It’s what God did for us.

So there’s the second thing we should be: Be a good person.

Be a considerate neighbour

And third, be a considerate neighbour. A considerate neighbour.

This is verse 2: “To slander no-one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle towards everyone”.

The circle has now widened right out. Chapter 2 was family. Chapter 3 verse 1 was those in authority. Now we’re talking about everyone. The word order is slightly weird in this verse to make the point. It starts, literally, “no-one to slander”. The verse starts with the word ‘no-one’, and ends with the word ‘everyone’. You get the point.

There’s bad behaviour to avoid. We don’t slander other people, speaking badly of them, slagging them off. Neither do we act aggressively – we’re peaceable, not quarrelsome. We don’t put others down by what we say, or by the way we treat them.

Instead, positively, we’re considerate, and we’re gentle. That’s about being considerate of others. Being kind. Putting the needs of other above our own. Wanting people to get on. Avoiding hurting people. Mending bridges. Healing rifts.

Once again, this flows naturally from the kindness we’ve received from God. Both these words: considerate and gentle are used of Jesus. This is the way God has treated us.

We’ve already said that the essence of sin is the desire to be in charge. I’m the most important person on my street, in my class, in my office, whatever it is. Once God’s rescued us from that self-centredness, we’re in a position to value other people. They matter more than I do.

Now, please don’t misunderstand Paul. He’s not saying that we should never speak out when things are wrong. He’s not saying that everyone getting along nicely is the most important thing. This is the same Paul who wrote chapter 1. There, he took on the false teachers on Crete. Titus is to silence them, stop them talking. He calls them liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.

He is telling us to be kind, conciliatory, as an expression of the fact that we follow Jesus. Sometimes that means saying things that are hard to say, and harder to hear, as an expression of Christ’s love for others. It always means we should avoid gossip, slander, quarrelling, and assertiveness, and instead we should be considerate, peace-loving, kind and gentle.

If there’s a dispute between neighbours about how high a hedge is, we should never be the ones involved. If someone is your street has a reputation of being a bit hard to get on with, a bit prickly, it should never be us. In church, in the village, at work, we shouldn’t be the squabbling, bickering, demanding ones; we should be the ones that smooth things over, that work hard to get along with people.

Be a considerate neighbour.


Be an obedient citizen. Be a good person. Be a considerate neighbour.

It’s not rocket science. It’s not even what being a Christian is all about – a Christian is someone who knows and loves Jesus. But it’s what it looks like when your Christian faith colours your life. It’s what we hope Logan will grow up into.

If you’re here this morning as someone who is still looking into the claims of Jesus, let me ask you this? Wouldn’t you love to live in a world where the authorities are respected, and earn that respect by the way they lead? Wouldn’t you love to live in a world where people spot the little acts of kindness that might help, and do them? Wouldn’t you love to live in a world where people basically get along, rather than fall out?

It’s a very attractive world, and it will happen as people trust and follow Jesus. Each time, we’ve seen that it is his grace and kindness that leads us to live in this very appealing way.

Many of us this morning are Christians. Here’s a little encouragement to us all to live out our faith, not just at home, but in public life as well – as we relate to those in authority, to those who need our help, and to our neighbours.

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