Monday, December 19, 2011

Titus Who?

I know almost nothing about Titus. Its opening lines are the epistle lesson for today, and, when I read them, I realized just how little I know. I don’t know who Titus was. I don’t know why Paul was writing him. The only thing I do know is that Titus comes up every year at Christmas, and that and the fact that it’s a book in the bible are probably good enough reasons for me to know more about it.

The good thing about Paul’s letters is that he usually tips us off on what he’s really writing about in the first few lines, and that seems to be the case with Titus. The letter is Paul’s instruction on what it takes to be a leader in the church, and he’s writing his friend and former companion with advice on how to build up the body of Christ. More importantly, however, those instructions come in the context of the good news. As Paul writes, “in due time, [God] revealed his word through the proclamation with which [he has] been entrusted,” and it’s that good news that drives everything.

What really caught my eye this morning is the nature of that proclamation. In his opening sentence, Paul declares that he is writing “in the hope of eternal life that God, who never lies.” Of course God never lies, but I don’t often think about it that way. God never lies. His word is always sure and certain. Take that image and let it run for a minute. God’s Word—Jesus Christ—is certain and sure. God’s promises from so long ago are trustworthy, and history always shows that God is faithful.

Imagine for a minute what it would be like to live with someone who was always truthful. Imagine how easily that pedestal could (and would) be overturned. But God, by definition, never lies. So even once—if humanity discovered that God had been unfaithful, all would be lost. We put our faith in the forever-tested understanding that God is truth. It may take us several lifetimes to figure out how God’s plan is at work, but we believe and know that he is true.

What does that mean for our understanding of Jesus—God’s very word? Think of all the images and metaphors we use for someone’s “word.” His word is his bond. You can take him at his word. Jesus is God’s Word. There’s a reason the church picked up on that image. God never lies, and he gave his word to the world in the gift of his Son. His son is the very heart of truth. Jesus reveals to us the very definition of God.

When circumstances in my life put my faith to the test, I am supposed to remember that Jesus Christ is God’s word, given to the world. If we want to know who God is we should look to Jesus. God showed himself to us through his Son. So even if we can’t see or know God—even if God’s ways are confusing or troubling or confounding—we do know his self-giving, self-sacrificing, total-loving word.

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