Welcome to the third-shortest book in the Bible by word count. It’s Paul’s letter to Philemon, a man who had come to faith through Paul’s missionary work. Philemon owned a slave named Onesimus, who had run away, encountered Paul, and been converted to Christianity. In the ancient world, fleeing as a slave was a capital offense, but Onesimus had tended to Paul’s needs while in prison and proven himself an enthusiastic and helpful follower of Christ. Paul found himself in a tight and complicated spot, and the letter gives us a look into his response to the problem at hand.
Yesterday my uncle shot me a link to this video series from RightNow Media: The Book of Titus. In the intro video, pastor Chip Ingram encourages viewers to read through the entire book of Titus and take note of every time Paul uses the word “good.” I couldn’t help reading the third chapter today with that in mind, and it struck me that this really is a book about encouraging the church to do good deeds.
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.
Today 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.
So here’s a letter from Paul to Titus. But who’s this guy? A search for his name throughout the entire Bible turns up some references from 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and even the final chapter of 2 Timothy, so he’s not a complete stranger to us, even if he’s a bit of a minor character in the New Testament. Whenever Paul mentions him, it’s in positive terms, comforting brethren, conducting himself respectfully and helpfully. Titus? Everyone loves Titus. He is an okay guy.
Before we tie a bow on the Timothies, I wanted to revisit one last pair of verses that we haven’t properly examined. I expect most of you will recognize the first of these verses, and you may even have memorized it if you were ever involved in scripture memory programs as a child. It’s one of Paul’s most-quoted lines: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). I memorized it in fourth or fifth grade as part of my church’s after-school program, R.A.D. (Radically Awesome Disciples). It was the 90s.
Time to say goodbye to Timothy. Paul signs off with his usual encouragement, exhortations, and personal notes mentioning various individuals by name, but it’s clear Paul wrote this letter late in life. He speaks about his life as a drink offering poured out to God, the conclusion of a victorious battle, the final hundred-meter push at the end of the eight-mile, and he urges Timothy to visit him as quickly as time permits. If Paul’s letters were a chord progression, this one would be a V chord, anticipating a move back to the tonic chord and the end of the song. This is the final chorus; this is the outro.
Paul loves his lists and litanies. And to begin today’s chapter in his second letter to Timothy, he goes off on the evil men that one can expect during the last days. He loves to enumerate, but Paul’s got no love for these guys as he blasts through their negative qualities with both barrels. What makes the evil dudes of the end times so evil? Let’s take a look.
I have a few reasons why I’m currently single, but foremost is that I primarily feel called to reproduce spiritually rather than biologically. Where others might pour their time and money into raising a kid, I’m investing in the relationships and space around me. My children are artwork that will enrich the world in some way, however small; my children are the meaningful experiences that my peers and I have through church events, service, tabletop role-playing games; my children are the things you and I learn from the entries on this blog. And I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the best parent, but that’s where my effort’s going these days. And that’s my goal: I’m raising well-being.
Will you look at that. Before us today is another letter from Paul to Timothy. Let’s roll up our sleeves and (nervous laughter) hope Paul doesn’t start talking about slavery again.