Today’s Chocolate: Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Forest Mint
Today’s Passage: Titus 2
My Triad crew was unable to meet this weekend, so now we’re back to All the Paul. That’s how we roll around here. Love it, live it–okay, maybe don’t love it, per se, but life happens and we gotta do what we gotta do.
So we return to our irregularly-scheduled trip through Titus, already in progress. Chapter 2 of Titus, much like 1 Timothy did with the offices of overseer and deacon, runs down the proper behaviors and character traits of the different sex and age groups in the church. He has instructions for older men, older women, younger men, and younger women. I noticed that the words “sensible” (2), “may encourage” (4), and “be sensible” (6, in this instance a single infinitive verb, literally “practice sensibleness”) all have the same Greek word as their root, σώφρων (sophron). I can’t help recalling Plato’s dialogue Meno, in which the titular Meno defines virtue as governance of the state for a man, governance of the household for a woman, and a different virtue for every category of human being, and Socrates takes him to task for not defining virtue but merely providing examples of different instances of it.
Honestly, I always thought that Meno (and by extension, Paul) kind of has a point. After all, the proper qualities of behavior for a person are not entirely independent of his or her station in life. Yes, they all have something in common, virtue proper, but it’s not an irrelevant question to ask: what qualities should a younger man or older woman have specifically as a younger man or older woman? Invent a word for it if you need to, o Socrates, and go on a hunt for lady-virtue or whatever you want to call it. It matters who you are individually and what category of individual you fall into. But sensibleness appears to be common to all of the categories Paul considers here–and if anyone disputes that sensibleness is a virtue, I would contend that they’re not being very sensible.
But back to sophron. Strong’s defines it as “of a sound mind, sane, in one’s senses” or “curbing one’s desires and impulses, self-controlled, temperate.” The NASB titles this section “Duties of the Older and Younger,” and I have to confess, when I first saw this section, I said to myself, “Great, more duties are the last thing I need right now.” I’ve been feeling a lot of stress and anxiety lately under the weight of my obligations.
But I have to concede that we have legitimate moral obligations. There exist things we should do. And while Jesus Christ did not die so that we could keep the Law (“It was for freedom that Christ set us free,” Galatians 5:1), he died to free us from the death penalty for our past sins and to empower us to become and do better in the future. And the crucial element on which being and doing good hinges? It’s restored fellowship with God. Paul puts it this way: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (11-13). I may be freed from sin’s death grip, but I’m not free to do whatever I want. That’s just re-enslaving myself.
And it occurs to me: maybe if I feel weighed down by my obligations, it’s because I’m not letting our great God and Savior Jesus Christ do the heavy lifting.