Meditations in Titus: 12: Teach older men (2)
Titus 2:1,2 You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.
We have seen Paul moving on to instruct Titus how to teach different groups in the church and he started with the older men and lays out six character issues and we considered the first three – being temperate, being worthy of respect and being self-controlled. Now let’s move straight on to the second group of three.
- Sound in faith. Now many of these things sound so obvious that our temptation may be to skim over them but if we do that it will be to our detriment. Note that this doesn’t say ‘the faith’. ‘The faith’ would suggest the whole of their belief system, referring back to having right doctrine but it just simply says “sound in faith.” Usually when you hear someone ask, “Are they sound?” (a somewhat old fashioned way of speaking these days) it usually meant in terms of their belief and behaviour so when it speaks of ‘sound in faith’ it is fair to suggest that Paul is speaking about a fundamental characteristic that he expects of them to have as Christians – to be faith-people.
We must not take this for granted because I believe one of the most common failures of modern day Christians is that we have so often ceased to be faith-people. Let’s examine this. Faith is believing in the unseen (Heb 11:1) and faith comes from hearing God speak (Rom 10:17) and indeed without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6). Faith is specifically responding to the word from God which may be the written word or the word that comes directly by His Spirit. So how often, we may ask, do we modern Christians find ourselves ‘responding’ to God? We may think we are Spirit empowered but unless we are also Spirit-led we will be falling down on this fourth description given by Paul for Titus to check out. The problem is that so often we listen to the enemy and, especially when we start to get older, think, “All this faith activity is really for younger people. I’m too tired, too inform to be used by God these days.” I see it in elderly Christians around me. When we respond to the Spirit’s nudging to go and welcome a newcomer, or to do a kind act, or to speak an encouraging word, we are moving in faith, we are faith people. So implies Paul, don’t let these older people rest on their laurels, there’s plenty for them to do.
My favourite set of verses in this context comes at the end of Psalm 92: “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.” (Psa 92:12-15) In old age still bearing fruit, still testifying to the goodness of the Lord. How wonderful. Go for it!
- (Sound) in love. Real love always expresses itself. That’s why God can’t help speaking to us, can’t help doing good for us. Again, in older age the temptation is to withdraw and feel inadequate in the face of all the vigorous young things in the church but the older person can still be a major bringer of love to the congregation. Indeed in the busy day in which we live, people can so easily lose sight of this fundamental characteristic of the church and of the believer, this characteristic which, “is patient… is kind… does not envy…. does not boast… is not proud….is not rude… is not self-seeking…. is not easily angered…. keeps no record of wrongs….does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth…. always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Cor 13:4-7) It is love that produces care, compassion and acceptance. In a busy, pressurised world, it is so easy to lose these things but the older person, hopefully not so busy and stressed, can make sure that this cement which binds the whole building together is well and truly there. I belong to a church with some wonderful loving and caring elderly people and they create the environment for all else to flow.
- (Sound) in endurance. Life is often a battle and no less so in older age. In fact when the lies of the enemy are whispered – you are too old to be of any use, your day is past, get out of the limelight, let younger people take over – the temptation is strong to give up. Yes, there is wisdom in bringing on the next generation but a word to the current sixties and seventies: one of my sons once said to me with what I thought was uncharacteristic wisdom, ‘You know, dad, our generation just isn’t half as well taught as yours was.’ That had me thinking. That may not be true of everyone but when I look back I realise that the seventies, eighties and nineties of the last century were full of excellent leaders, excellent teachers and we were well taught and coming through the periods of the charismatic movement and later the Toronto blessing, we were also receivers of the experience of the Spirit in a major way.
Today we have learning and experience which should not be ignored or frittered away. Bring on the young people, the young leaders, the young worship leaders, by all means, but older men, hold on, persevere in the face of so many negatives of this world and the difficulties of older age – endure! We need your wisdom, we need your experience, we need your example. We need to see your restraint (temperance), we need your example that wins respect, we need to see your self-discipline (control), we need to see the example of your life of faith, and your life filled with love, and we need you to endure, to keep on with head held high until the day the Lord calls you away from us. You are valuable, we need you. Please rise up and be all these things.