Call and response
We were excited to hear that both the International Church of Torino and Highfields seemed to coincide with looking at the book of Titus.
Huw Williams | 12:00, Saturday 26 May, 2012 | Turin, Italy
We're not copying, honest! But it's encouraging to think that this wonderful book is getting our attention both here and at home.
It's been an exciting week for us, watching Kitty developing and growing up. It has been a week of many smiles, which are of course a source of great delight. A full tummy, a clean nappy, a close up face or a little tickle can all produce a radiant smile from our daughter which seems to only begin in the face and somehow encompasses her whole body. Why does this her delight her Dad and Mum so much? Well I guess many reasons, but one of them must surely be that Kitty is learning to respond. Of course we like to think she is responding to us, but she may actually be responding with a smile to something far more ordinary, but the fact remains that she is responding to something. It seems to be something we learn quickly and never outgrow. To be human is to be a responder.
And all week I've been working away in Titus chapter 2, where Paul gives a long list of instructions to various age groups and genders in the church on Crete. It struck me that for many these instructions might seem impossible – loving submission to a cruel and harsh boss? Loving a husband who is little different? Being kind to kids who seem so ungrateful and selfish? Living with self-control in a world where self-expression and impulse is everything? Living with love in a world where love is such short supply? You can almost imagine the Cretan church (not to mention many a contemporary reader) throwing up their hands in exasperation, "You must be kidding! You want to see my boss! …If only you could see what our family life behind closed doors!" and so on. How this possible?
And Paul tells us – but what exactly does he tell us? Just do it, roll your sleeves up, get disciplined, get obedient, and work at it? Well, no. He reminds us that we are responders. And what are we responding to as believers? -
"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ,who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good."
It seems to me that the life of love which is so important to Paul, is not an act of the will, it is a response to the grace and love of God Himself. This is the grace which teaches us to say no to ungodliness and to live godly lives.
We have a wonderful teacher. So the challenge for all of us has to be this – are we listening?