Today’s Chocolate: Green & Black’s 85% Cacao Dark Chocolate
Today’s Passage: Titus 2
We’re revisiting Titus 2 today, because I found some more things worth looking at and I’ve decided to milk this chapter for content. I figured I’d start by dredging out our old favorite, slavery in the Bible, because everyone likes that so much.
When I read the passage yesterday, I noticed the word “bondslaves” in Paul’s instructions for Titus concerning the slaves in his congregation (vv.9-10). I asked myself: what is the difference between a slave and a bondslave? Nothing. Here in Titus, it’s the Greek word δοῦλος, doulos, the same word that we’ve seen translated “slave” in passages such as Ephesians 6:5-8. Incidentally, it’s a word that Paul commonly uses to refer to himself in the salutations of his letters, Paulos doulos Iesou Christou, “Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:1). Given the things he endured to spread the gospel, which he would particularly assert was in obedience to the will of God, I don’t think he was using the word lightly.
Here, as usual, Paul encourages obedience. He tells Titus, “Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect” (9-10). It’s worth noting that many slaves were debt-slaves in the ancient Roman world; in a world without capitalism and international banking, one might well end up working for one’s creditors in order to pay off what one owed. In such cases, compliance with one’s masters might ensure better wages–if one’s masters were fair. And I think most of us would agree that whatever the proper response of any slave is to his condition, stealing from one’s masters is going to be the equivalent of throwing veiled insults and passive-aggressive snark at one’s boss at work. It’s ineffectual at best and counterproductive at worst.
I’ve continued thinking lately about Dungeons and Dragons’ “law vs. chaos” alignment axis. Specifically, as I read passages like this one, I ask myself, “Is there really room for the chaotic alignment within Christianity?” Paul says that Jesus Christ “gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed” (14), and he urges obedience, composure, and compliance with one’s obligations to others, all hallmarks of law. My close friend Ash Green, a fellow board member at Plan X Media, once posted a series of articles under the title of “Christian Rebellion.” And sometimes I wonder: would Paul take issue with Ash’s choice of title and his articles? And if so, who would be in the right?
But at the end of the day (at least at the end of this day), I think there is a time and a place for Christian rebellion. Yes, God has created a moral universe with moral law hard-coded into it. But when that moral law and any other law conflict, the standard for goodness that God created wins out. Wherever Daniel (Daniel 6) and his fellow Hebrews Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego (Daniel 3) were ordered to stop praying to God or to worship anyone other than him, they chose to disobey the authorities and face the penalty, even the threat of death. And Paul himself writes, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). These words–rulers, powers, world forces–they don’t refer exclusively to demonic or “merely” spiritual entities. The rulers of the Roman Empire often persecuted Christians, demanding that they give up their faith or pledge their devotion and worship to the emperor.
And the Christians, recalling that their struggle was not against flesh and blood, did not take up arms against the evil of the Empire. But they refused to comply, even to the point of death. They rebelled.