Sunday, August 7, 2011
Marvin A. McMickle, Guest Lectionary Commentator
Professor of Homiletics at Ashland Theological Seminary, Cleveland, OH
Lection Ė Titus 2:2, 6-8 (New Revised Standard Version)
(v. 2) Tell the older men to be temperate, serious, prudent, and sound in faith, in love, and in endurance.
(v. 6) Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. (v. 7) Show yourself in all respects a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity, (v. 8) and sound speech that cannot be censured; then any opponent will be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us.
I. Description of the Liturgical Moment
Menís Day is an opportunity to focus on themes, topics, and activities that can challenge and/or encourage the male members of a congregation and community with regard to some action or attitude that can result in the enhancement of their livesóbe it spiritual, financial, emotional or physical. Menís Day should NOT be seen as a time to beat up on or degrade men for what many of them are not doing in the Church, in the family, or in the broader society. Instead, the occasion is designed to lift a sound biblical model of how men should function and challenge the men in the congregation to embrace that model for their lives. Remember that Menís Day is not to be confused with Fatherís Day, so the discussion does not have to be limited to matters of family life. There are a broad range of topics that can be employed on this special day. It is possible that the pastor will not be the preacher that day, and if that is the case the pastor should still have a hand in determining the focus of that dayís service.
II. Biblical Interpretation for Preaching and Worship: Titus 2:2, 6-8
Part One: The Contemporary Contexts of the Interpreter
Menís Day is an opportunity to do targeted ministry within the congregation. In most African American and all other churches men constitute a numerical minority. In some instances, men may believe that church-going is something best left to their wives, mothers, sisters, children, or anyone else but them. The idea that men should have some regular involvement in the life of a congregation is something that no longer resonates within most African American communities. Here is a chance to speak to that issue in a direct and compelling way. Menís Day is an important ministry opportunity.
That being said, it is interesting to note that most African American churches also operate from the assumption that ordained leadership within the church, meaning at the level of pastor/deacon or elder/steward, should be limited only to its male members. This anomaly of being overwhelmingly absent from the pew but overwhelmingly, even exclusively, present in the pulpit and other church leadership roles is a significant issue for most American churches. This would be an appropriate topic for Menís Day, but no local church should feel the need to limit its options to that single topic. The point here is simply to set Menís Day within the broader context of congregational life in most African American churches.
Part Two: Biblical Commentary
The Epistle to Titus is one of the Pastoral Epistles written by Paul to Titus, who has been sent to establish a Christian community on the island of Crete in the Mediterranean Sea. The purpose of the Epistle to Titus was to “bring all persons, Jew and gentile, slave and free, male and female, old and young, to faith in and worship of Jesus.”1 According to Titus 1:5, Paul left Titus at Crete to “put in order what remained to be done” concerning the role of church leadership and the lifestyle expected of all disciples of Jesus Christ. The goal of the ministry of Titus himself was to establish a church on Crete that was above reproach so that any opponent will be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us” (2:8).
A church that is above reproach by its external critics is something captured most clearly in Ephesians 5:27, which says, “He did this to present himself with a splendid church, one without any sort of stain or wrinkle on her clothes, but rather one that is holy and blameless” (CEV). In other words, the purpose of Titus in the first century on Crete and the purpose of the Epistle of Titus as we read it in the twenty-first century is to offer instruction that will result in both maturity and holiness within the Christian community such that its outside critics will have nothing negative to say about how the church or any of its members is behaving.
The relationship between younger and older men is significant because it points to the relationship that should exist between these two groups. One group sets the example that the next group is expected to adopt and carry forth. Both groups should, of course, be present in the church. The lifestyle issues raised by Titus are important in the twenty-first century with its focus on self-indulgence and immediate personal gratification. The idea of being sober or mature, serious in thought and action, and exemplary in the display of the fruit of the Spirit is a challenge that is much needed in todayís world.
At a time when the church is in the news more because of sexual or financial misconduct than for exemplary living, this passage offers timely advice. What a blessing it would be if no one could say anything negative about the church because everyone in the church and especially the men in the church were living good and godly lives. As was the case with Titus, the pastors and preachers must be the first ones to step forward and live in ways that are models of good works and whose teachings are marked by integrity, gravity, and sound speech and cannot be censured by any critic of the church.
To that end, Titus states that every group within the Christian community has a role to play and certain responsibilities to assume. Titus 2:2 points to the proven and tested faith that is expected of the older men in the community. They should be temperate, serious, prudent, sound in faith (not just faith as in belief, but faithfulness as in reliable service). They should also be leading the way in terms of their love for and patience (endurance or longsuffering) with others in the community. Older men should be wise and discerning so that the advice and counsel they offer will yield good results. They should also exhibit the core values of the Christian community including faith, love, and patience. By both word and deed older men should be the firm foundation upon which the Christian community is established.
As a teenager in Chicago, I was heading either for prison or to an early grave. My father had abandoned the family when I was ten. My brother was fighting in Vietnam. My mother was working two jobs to make ends meet for the family. What saved my life from destruction was the intervention of a man in my local church who came by my house and took me for a drive that ended at Cook County jail. He assured me that if I did not change my ways I would be residing in that jail or Joliet prison. That intervention saved my life. Hopefully, Menís Day in your church can challenge the men to pass on good and godly wisdom to the next generation. Such intervention can still save so many boys and young men.
Next, Titus offers a few comments regarding the role of older women in the community that are fairly consistent with the role that women were expected to assume in any patriarchal culture, which was the reality in the first century Greco-Roman world. Clearly, in the intervening years, and especially within the African American church, it has been older women who have assumed and carried forth the role and the work from which so many men have walked away. Men’s Day should not be a time to push women back into a first-century role within a patriarchal worldview. Rather, it should be a time to encourage men of all ages to step forward and share in the work that needs to be done and that requires “all hands on deck.”
Titus then speaks to the roles and responsibilities of younger men that largely involve the need to learn from and carry on the good example of the male elders of the Christian community. Young men are to be serious and earnest. They should be role models and good examples for all who see or might follow their lead. At the same time, Paul challenges Titus himself that his teaching should be sound and reliable. What one sees here, at least so far as the role and involvement of men is concerned, is a deliberate pattern of setting a godly example within the ranks of one generation that can be passed on to successive generations. The pattern begins with Paul to Titus and continues from the older to the younger men of that Christian community. While an example of godly living is passed from generation to generation, so too is the cause of Christ extended forward into the future.
Titus reminds us that the work of establishing the reign of God on earth is not limited to those who preach the message of salvation. That work must also involve those godly men and women who, as they assume the roles assigned to them by Paul through Titus, are able to “let their light so shine that others can see their good works and give glory to God” (Matthew 5:16). The gospel must be lived as well as preached!
I thank God for the mature male saint who took me for a drive so many years ago. I can still hear his voice and see the car as it came to a sudden stop outside Cook County Jail. He was not my father but he stood in the gap and it has made all the difference. Thank God for godly black men everywhere who are shouldering their responsibilities and even standing in the gap for other men. Your labor is not in vain. The community, the church, and the world are the beneficiaries of your love, wisdom, and service. Happy Menís Day!
The descriptive details in this passage include:
Sights: Old men advising young men; old men teaching skills to young men; old men teaching community customs to young men; young men listening; young men stepping forward to lead after having learned skills and traditions of their communities;
Sounds: Old men talking; young men laughing; old and young men engaged in craft work and athletic games; young men applauding older men and older men applauding younger men; and
Colors: The gray beards of older men; the bright white teeth of young men; the dulling eyes of older men; the dark hair of younger men; and the bright-colored clothing worn by young men.
1. Quinn, Jerome D. The Letter to Titus. The Anchor Bible, Volume 35. New York, NY: Doubleday Press, 1990. p. 11.