I was thinking about Paul’s letter to Titus and how it could appear this young Pastor really caught the “short straw” being given the church in Crete as his responsibility. The more I thought about it, I began to consider what his mission field was like in contrast to say, yours and mine. Cretan poet/philosopher Epimenedes labeled his fellow countrymen as “always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” (Titus 1:12) Paul did nothing to soften this characterization so they had to be a very rough lot.
Biblical account and historical literature paint these people in general as “bad seed,” so much that using the term “Corinthianize” meant living an immoral or promiscuous life. The term “Cretanize” labeled people as liars or that they were alike in lifestyle with people from Crete. Talk about a bad reputation. This had to be no secret to the citizens of Crete. They knew what they were known for and what they were known as.
When people are far off the grid morally, they may not choose to change their ways but they are not unaware that their behavior and lifestyle are not the acceptable norm. A significant part of the Holy Spirit’s mission is to convict people of their sin while in their sin and lead them to repentance. There is normally an awareness of the difference of living in “light or darkness” if I might apply those terms.
The lifestyles and behaviors of the Cretans was in such contrast to the ways of God that it would be hard to say it wasn’t obvious. Preaching God’s love, forgiveness and the promise of a better life free of guilt and condemnation to any sinner in such a state of depravity can be a welcome reprieve from what they are used to experiencing. For abundant life, for eternal life from salvation forward, they need Jesus.
Shifting gears, most people in our culture, those we rub shoulders with anyway, would view themselves as good, nice, moral people. And they may very well be all of that and more . . . according to worldly standards. And worldly standards are all they know so they are who they think they are. God’s word would be the contradiction and they aren’t privy to that, are they? Hey, I thought that of myself until I read some things that indicated otherwise. Maybe you did too. When people are already well convinced that by their “measuring stick” and by the cultural norms around them that they are “good,” convincing them that the case may be otherwise and that the gospel is their antidote and friend isn’t always such an easy task. Have you found that to be the case as well?
Perhaps the prescription for those wanting to plow more pliant, fertile soil for the gospel would be to mingle with more debased, deplorable people. Not up for that? Then it may make personal evangelism a bit more challenging. What to do? What to do? i could make up an amazing before and after Jesus transformation story that is sure to dazzle. I could massage the gospel so that sin and man’s condition apart from God doesn’t sound so personal and foreboding (which it is). Or I could submit to realism and accept the fact that no matter the soil, growing and yielding a crop takes time, patience and help.
What do we do to express God’s love and invitation to those “good” people who are not Cretans? To my neighbors? To my family or co-workers? We do plant seed whenever and wherever we can. We scatter. We don’t pile-drive it in. We seize opportunities to relate something we have seen God do in us or for us. We exhibit joy. (If our lives don’t look attractive, who will be interested in a “trade-in?”) We love patiently. We understand we are working to peel back the blindness and disinterest that the prince of this world has caused them. We show consistency of a working faith in our life. We acknowledge struggles and setbacks, and we affirm our trust in the One who “has our backs” and our best interests at heart.
We partner in this process with who knows how many. (1Cor. 3:8) One plants, one waters, but only God makes things grow. Consider your efforts success when you have moved someone an inch or a thought closer to considering receiving Christ. Not all people will be saved. That is not our ultimate concern. Just doing our part in the progression. That should give our hearts rest. And for some who we pour into, we won’t know the result until we leave this world. We don’t have to. Love, labor, let God. Think About It.