The beauty of the Church of Jesus Christ is that men from every nation are called out of darkness into the light of Jesus Christ. No matter what differences in our earthly citizenship, all believers have the same heavenly citizenship. Every Christian is a citizen of heaven (Php. 3:20). We have become part of a royal nation, a holy priesthood (1 Pet. 2:9). We belong to heaven first. Our Head, the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, He is there. And what we must see is that who we are as heavenly citizens governs who we are as earthly citizens. So here today we see in Titus 3 a passage teaching us how we ought to see ourselves as Christian citizens. Citizens of this nation who are also first and foremost, Christians (citizens of heaven).
“Remind them to be…” These are exhortations that all believers need to hear more than once. As humans we forget very easily. The Biblical record and our experience will show that fact. God knows that we need to hear the same things continually. Peter said, “So I will always remind you of these things..” and “I have written both of my letters to you as reminders…” The things Paul says to remind the believes make up the reputation Christians should have with the outside world. When they look at us these are 5 things they should see in us as Christians.
#1: Christian citizens respect authority and obey the laws of our nation.
Verse 1 says, “Remind the people”, referring to believers, “to be subject to rulers and authorities”. As citizens, Cretans were just that: Cretans. No people were had a worse reputation for starting insurrections, rebellions and constant friction with their government. So Paul was speaking to an issue very close to home for newly converted Cretan Chrsitians: respect your rulers and authorities.
Whereas Paul just finished chapter 2 speaking of the authority of the pastor, he now switches to the authority of the civil government. More than anyone else Christians should understand respect for authority and the need to submit to it. Christians show it for pastors. Christian children show it for parents. Christian wives show it for husbands. Christian employees show it towards employers. And Christian citizens show respect for the secular authority of civil government. The Bible clearly commands this in many places. Turn to Romans 13:1-7 with me. This teaching squares with the command Jesus gave regarding taxes, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.” Turn with me to 1 Peter 2:11-17.
Society today is full of insolence. Christians must not be. There are several examples of men of God showing respect for rulers and authorities. Daniel spoke reverently to King Nebuchadnezzar. Another great example is Paul’s respect towards the Sanhedrin (turn to Acts 23:1-5). Paul towards King Agrippa and Festus (Acts 26:1-3, 24-25).
Questions: What about the right to petition our government over grievances? Can evil and tyrannical governments be overthrown? Can Christians disagree with politicians? Can Christians engage in civil disobedience and peaceable protests? God raises up and destroys nations by His sovereign will. He uses one nation to punish another (Israel/Canaanites, Israel/Amalekites, Assyria/Israel, Babylon/Judah, etc.). People in Biblical history have petitioned their kings and governors (Israelites/Moses, Jews/Pontius Pilate). God’s people have refused to follow laws that would cause them to violate a clear and direct command of God (Hebrew Midwives, Exodus 1:15-17; Daniel’s friends refuse to worship Babylonian King, Dan. 3:6-8; Apostles refuse to stop preaching, Acts 5:27-29)
Application: What is our attitude towards our government? Are we cynical, self-righteous, and disrespectful in the way we talk about our leaders? How we relate to authority says a lot about us. Do we have a rebellious spirit or a godly spirit? Christians
#2: Christian citizens are always ready to do whatever is good
Next, as citizens, we are always ready to do whatever is good. Christians should be busy with doing good things.
First, notice the “spirit” we should have: we should be ready. Titus 2:14 says we should be “eager” to do what is good. Like we’re “anxious” for it and can’t wait. Christians, we should be keeping our eyes peeled for ways to do good deeds. Rather than seeing a chance to help someone as an inconvenience we should jump at it. Can I just say that helping people should be a priority, but, but we should avoid making something our cause. Too many times well-meaning Christians get myopic with some good cause they are devoted to. And all of the sudden you can’t be a good Christian or local church if you’re not supporting a certain cause. Good deeds should be done as the Lord gives opportunity. The Good Samaritan Jesus told us about wasn’t part of a para-church ministry and out looking for people who were hurting on the streets. He was busy with his day, on the way somewhere to take care of things in his own life when he came across someone who was hurting. He took the time, the money, and the energy to help. He was “ready” to do good to this hurting person. Verse 8 says Christians should be devoted – like we voluntarily give our time and resources to doing good things. There is an element of sacrifice brought out here.
Secondly, notice the scope: we should be ready to do “whatever” is good. That is very broad and all-encompassing. The reason we should have a readiness is because there are so many ways to do good that we can’t anticipate all the kinds of opportunities that God will put in our path (Eph. 2:10). Philippians 2:4 says, “Each of you should look out not only for your own interests but also for the interests of others.” First John 3:17 says, “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?”
#3: Christian citizens don’t slander other people
Certainly Christians don’t slander each other, but, we must ask ourselves if we slander our rulers and authorities. Don’t slander authorities. Don’t speak evil of them. That’s what slander means: to hurl insults, to speak abusively against someone, to curse or speak evil of them.
This command not to slander is particularly related to authorities for two reasons. First, the context. Paul is speaking of how a Christian ought to relate to outsiders, and as he specifically mentions: rulers and authorities. Secondly, the Greek word used here is used often times to describe slander against an authority figure. In 2 Peter 2:10 false teachers are so wicked they are “unafraid to slander celestial beings.” These same men are said in Jude 8, “to reject authority and slander celestial beings.” Only the wicked and ignorant speak slanderously of the angelic authorities in the heavenly realms. Revelation 13:6 says the antichrist will “open his mouth to blaspheme God and to slander His Name and His dwelling place and those who live in heaven.”
Admittedly this is hard in our country in this day. For 3 reasons. First, America is built on the right of Free Speech. We have a right to criticize our government, to petition it wherever there are grievances. Can we do that without slandering our leaders? Secondly, our social values have changed. Speaking your mind and the ability to put someone in their place is admired. The man who win’s arguments and can skillfully rip someone else apart is a champion. Third, this social value has been maximized by the opportunity to voice one’s opinion today like never before. Social media like FB, Twitter, blogs, online forums and comment sections have opened the flood gates for people to unload their feelings on everything all the time. The impulse to gripe or level criticism is afforded an immediate outlet through social media, and that ability everyone now has to instantly have their voice be heard by hundreds or even thousands only accelerates a critical society.
Discretion, the better part of valor, is getting lost. But Christians need to lead the way in restraining abusive talk of governmental leaders and also in expressing disagreement without disrespecting the authorities God has placed over us.
What does all this mean? It means we need to guard ourselves carefully in how we speak of those who are our leaders. We need to demonstrate that we know how to respect someone for the office they hold, even if we feel they personally haven’t earned it.
#4: They are peaceful and considerate
Fourthly, Christians citizens should be known as people who are peaceful and considerate. These are two beautiful descriptions that each of us as believers should develop. Peaceful literally means someone who does not brawl, someone who is not contentious. They don’t feel like they have to fight over everything and they don’t disrupt things. They don’t take away from the orderliness of a society but contribute to it.
A person can be peaceable if they are considerate. That’s why these two words are paired together here. Considerate is a beautiful word that is hard to translate into English, but, a great description is someone who has a “sweet reasonableness, and, is satisfied with less than what is due them”. Sometimes the word is translated “gentle”. But it conveys a peaceful person who doesn’t demand they get everything they deserve. They are quick to overlook insults or social slights. If they are treated unfairly they don’t get bent out of shape about it. They are not easily provoked.
The reason is because of what’s going on within them. Inwardly they are full of grace. For one thing they understand God is control of all things and so they rest knowing all is in His hands. Romans 8:28 says, “. A person like this knows they have more in Christ than they could ever possibly get from this world and they also know that this world can’t take anything away from them that they have in Christ. First Peter 2:19 says, “For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.”
A Christian should not be known as a quarreler. Proverbs says, …. Even when we disagree – even when we disagree strongly – we should still be respectful and not hostile.
#5: They are truly humble
The Christian Citizen is truly humble towards his government. This is rooted ultimately in an attitude like Jesus Christ had. “If it is possible Father, let this cup pass from me. Yet, not my will, but yours.” Here is the crux: Humility is seen most clearly in the face of unjust suffering. That’s why the great Christological passage in Philippians 2 is actually all about humility. Turn to Philippians 2.
True humility is what we are supposed to show the world and true humility is seen clearest in cases of unjust suffering.