Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone.
Titus 3:1-2; NRSVue
At the beginning of a new week, as the song goes, “rainy days and Mondays always get me down.” I know a guy who loved Mondays, though I’m sure when Fridays got around, he was happy. But as we enter another week, it might be good to ease into it with the realization that in Christ we’re called to simply gently push ahead.
Paul’s words above, or likely written in Paul’s name from someone who followed, have to be seen in their own context before we can bring them over to today, though most of it seems pretty straightforward. The word to be subject to rulers and authorities, probably obedience referring to that, is simply pointing out how Christ-followers are to live in relationship to government. We might very well and should offer conscientious objection against a number of things that the state might prescribe for us to do, like serving in the military, paying taxes for the military, policies which bring harm to the poor and marginalized, along with advocating for what is just and good. But whatever we do with reference to the state, we do as those in subjection. That doesn’t mean what they say goes, or that we have to obey their every decree. But that would be an exception to the rule. We try to live as good earthly citizens, even while our true citizenship is in heaven.
The rest of this again seems pretty straightforward from one generation to the next. To be ready for every good work means just that, and good works are meant to be done out of love for others. To speak evil of no one seems to be one that even the best of us too easily fail to follow today. I think this is meant to underscore the due respect we pay to everyone, but doesn’t mean that we can’t speak the truth. It’s more than easy to transgress that distinction and boundary, falling into words and thoughts that should be left to God’s judgment. But again, I don’t think at all that this means we can’t call out people for what they’re actually doing and saying. Probably most of us will do well to remain silent and pray. A few might be called to speak out.
To avoid quarreling is another one which we easily get, given all the controversy today. Respectful conversation is one thing, quarreling quite another. Arguing or worse. Of course quarreling can be over any disagreement among family, friends, neighbors, even strangers. That is not something we’re to engage in. Gentleness should characterize us, our lives, all we say and do. And right in the fire of life, where it might be easy to become brusque and combative. No, we must remain gentle come what may in every encounter in life. Showing every courtesy to everyone means that we should go out of our way not only not to offend, but to edify. People should know that being well mannered and kindly thoughtful with others is always our goal, what marks us.
All of this can help us to ease into another week, gently pushing ahead into the work and what falls out before us. Knowing that Christ is with us to help us through every aspect of life and challenge that comes our way.