The Life Project: Titus and Philemon
I have been challenged lately by reading the Epistles of Paul. I have
been confronted with how my faith in Christ is manifested in my
attitudes and behavior. Do I merely profess a faith in Christ, or do I live
it out? One of the most poignant things that occurred to me while
reading the Pauline epistles is the emphasis Paul puts on
relationships. It seems that our faith cannot be viable, outside of the
context of relationships with other people. This is not necessarily good
news for me or is it, I imagine, good news for you.
I find it easy to understand the grace of God. I love contemplating the
work of Atonement on Calvary. I find myself thinking often about
salvation and heaven and future glory. I enjoy listening to discussions
on doctrine and theology. But relationships are hard; there are so
many undeserving people, aren’t there? I say this tongue in cheekkind
of. Because while I don’t like to admit it, I am not nearly as good
at loving others as I want people to think I am. I imagine many of you
can understand my plight.
Despite how difficult it is to love people, the Apostle Paul, our Savior
and all of Scripture, really, put a heavy emphasis on love and
relationships. The books of Titus and Philemon are no exceptions.
These two short letters deal with relationships between husband and
wife, parent and child, slave and master, and so on. It is as if all of our
doctrines, all of our theology, all of our theorizing, aren’t really that
important without love.
Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-40 that all the law and the prophets can
be summed up in two commandments; love God and love people. He
said in John 13:35 that the world will know we are His disciples by our
love for one another. The call to love is unquestionable and
irrevocable. It is weaved through the Old Testament, shouted in the
Gospels and preached in the Epistles. As Christians we must be a
people of love.
But saying you love someone does not necessarily mean that you do.
Love, primarily, is a verb. In the books of Titus and Philemon, as well
as his other epistles, Paul encourages mutual submission, kindness,
and showing grace. These are some of the ways in which Christians
love. To say that I love my husband is all well and good, but if I don’t
submit to him, if I am not kind to him, if I don’t show him grace then do
I really love him?
I am reminded of Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church. 1st Corinthians
13:4-7, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not
boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not
delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always
trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” This is the kind of love that
should mark the disciples of Christ. We should have this kind of love
for our spouses, our children, our neighbors, our bosses, our enemies.
To love like this is faith in action.