Paul’s memo to Titus: “Good works – make sure they’re being done!”
As an Evangelical who’s theology could be described as “Reformed” (by people who love describing, prescribing and labeling theologies … though I wouldn’t do it), I do have the tendency to see grace and works in dichotomy. I highlight grace, and grayscale good works.
But, my lectionary readings have me in the book of Titus this week – during my Lenten journey, as I attempt to be a proactive DOER of Lent, rather than a reactive NOT-DOER. Here are some selections from Titus (see if you can spot the theme):
1:15-16 “The defiled … profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.”
2:7 “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works.”
2:14 “[Jesus] gave himself for us … to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”
3:1 “Remind them … to be ready for every good work.”
3:8 “I want you to insist … that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.”
3:14 “And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.”
Why have I never heard of Titus spoken of as “that good works book”?
It’s a pithy Christian cliche, but still very true, and still quite ignored by us Cretans in practice: It’s not just what we’ve been saved from (sin, death and hell) but what we’ve been saved for (holiness, righteousness and good works). Grace doesn’t just extend mercy … it teaches, it empowers, it mobilizes a life full of doing.
And Paul urges Titus to good works, lest he be “unfruitful.” If a tree is known by it’s fruits (as the scriptures clearly say is the case), and good works are our fruit … well, would people realize we’ve been saved by the grace of God by the things that we do? Or are our testimonies bound strictly to what we know?
Lenten realization: Stopping my sin is not bearing good fruit. It’s just stopping the bad fruit. If I’m going to have a fruitful Lent, I’ve got to do more than just not sin.
The late singer-songwriter Keith Green (a uniquely fruitful man in his day) once said, “If Christians spent more time doing the dos, we wouldn’t have time to do the don’ts!”
Intellectual point taken. Now … what to do?