By Eric Basye August 2020
*The following is part of a series called “A Changed Perspective” to challenge the way in which we view the world, culture, people, and places from a biblical perspective. Undoubtedly, for Christ followers to live in the world but not be of the world is a challenging task, but with humble spirits, teachable hearts, the Word of God, and His Spirit that lives within to guide and lead us, He allows us to be part of His redemptive work in the world around us. This particular blog is a journal reflection of mine during my time with the Lord one morning in early June.
Today I was struck by the following passage in my reading from Titus:
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:11-14, NASB, bold print mine).
This was all the more notable to me as I have given thought and consideration to the not only the challenges posed worldwide by COVID-19, but most recently the rioting and protesting in response to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As if our country were not fragile enough, especially in light of the upcoming Presidential elections, this injustice seems to have caused even greater division and unrest in our country. Even here in Billings, Montana we had our own protest downtown as hundreds filled the streets with “armed militia” (to ensure the peace, they said), protestors (peacefully protesting to demand the rights of African Americans and an end to police brutality), and curious by-standers who were there to support the community. As the Executive Director of CLDI, I have been asked why it is we have not taken a stance to post a response on our CLDI Facebook page or blog. To be honest, these events are terribly conflicting to me, not only because of what happened to George Floyd, but also because I continue to struggle with best understanding what it means to live as a Christ follower in this world that is not our home. For two decades I have been immersed in loving and serving people and communities who are the most marginalized and vulnerable to the gross injustices of this world – Native Americans on the Yakima Indian Reservation; inner city youth in Denver, Colorado; largely African American communities of Memphis, TN (Binghampton and Orange Mound in particular); Hindi, Buddhist, and Muslim people living in such places as Tunisia, Afghanistan, Nepal, and India; and since 2009, my wife and I have invested ourselves as neighbors in the South Side community of Billings.
The Book of Ecclesiastes teaches us that there is nothing new under the sun. Since the fall of Adam and Eve, Mankind (and our world) has been in a deep spiral downward, out of control, such that not only people suffer, but even creation groans, longing for the day when all that has been broken will be made right again upon the coming of King Jesus. Really, what we are talking about is a world without “shalom”, which more or less is a destruction of the harmonious peace Adam and Eve had prior to their epic fall in Genesis 3. While it would seem that we, Mankind, are a people without hope, left to our own demise that is true, but thanks be to our great God who is full of mercy and grace and has brought reconciliation through Jesus. God offers to us what we cannot provide on our own – a pathway forward to live life, really live, the way God intended for us – to be in harmony with Him, ourselves, one another, and creation. This is the gospel – “Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18, NASB).
Paul’s instruction to Titus is a call to no longer live as the world does, but rather, to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope to come which is found in Jesus, our Savior. Commentator Knute Larson writes, “Paul did not leave the Christian with a list of duties to perform. He called us to a noble purpose, a higher life. He showed us that it is God’s grace – past, present, future – which strengthens and motivates us to live beyond the call of society, embracing obedience to God” (bold print mine). I wonder how different our lives might look if we, the Church, those who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, were to live out this noble calling?
Paul further instructs Titus and wrote, “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men” (Titus 3:1-2, NASB, italics mine). Larson writes, “A peaceable person maintains a congenial attitude, ready to defer to someone else. Such a person rejects aggressive or violent methods of attaining personal advantage.” Imagine, what if we as the Church were to respond in such ways? Not in anger nor hatred, but peaceably, seeking to restore relationships rather than malign them! He continues on, “Believers sometimes get mixed up in the war with sin regarding others as enemies rather than people in need. Our fight is not against flesh and blood, Paul wrote (Eph. 6:10–18), but against authorities and powers.” Wow! Aren’t we all a people in great need? Do we believe what the Bible says is true, that all people have been made in the image and likeness of God, thus, all people have intrinsic value and worth and a capacity to know the One who made them? As Scripture teaches, no one is without sin and apart from His saving grace, we are all enemies of God. Thank goodness for the demonstration of His love to which He laid down His life on our behalf! Is this not the kind of “demonstration” to which we are to participate? As He has laid His life down for us, so we are to lay down our lives for others.
Larson goes on to say, “A peaceable person is considerate, setting aside personal concerns for the welfare of others. This person is careful in thought, speech, and action, weighing the ramifications of each. In summary, we are to show true humility. Once again, the scope of Paul’s instructions are wide – including all people. True humility retains a proper understanding of one’s self. A person need not debase and malign himself in order to be humble; this is self-absorption of another sort. True humility thinks sensibly, refusing the lure of competition and comparison.” As I consider this call, and the challenges that surround us, not only now, but for years and decades to come, I believe this is to be our resolve: To remain a people steadfast in hope for His kingdom to come – a kingdom marked by perfect shalom – to live with gospel hope, entrusting ourselves to our King who laid down His life for us, in order that we may love and lay down our lives for others, friend and foe alike. Let “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10, KJV). Amen.