Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men. (Titus 3:1-8)
“For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God…holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught…” (Titus 1:7ff)
Those who rise to high office, fame, or fortune sometimes forget where they came from. They may act as though they have no connection with—or obligation to—common people, even if they themselves were once poor and of low social standing. For example, a congresswoman who had grown up in poverty was notorious for being demanding, inconsiderate, and downright rude to the members of her staff. A wealthy movie actor who had come from a working class background would instruct his household servants that they were not so much as to make eye contact with him or members of his family.
Believers in Jesus Christ have the very highest standing, for we are God’s own children and heirs. We are the richest of all people, for we have all that we need for time and for eternity. But the Apostle Paul reminds us in our text that we should never on this account adopt a superior attitude toward others.
Instead Paul exhorts us to show humility in our conduct. It is God’s will for us as His children that we are easy to get along with. He wants us to obey the laws, even when no one is watching; to be willing to lend a hand to those in need; to live peaceably with our neighbors, as much as it depends on us.
It is not easy to live this way when laws are complicated and burdensome. It is hard to help a neighbor who is in need when we have many needs of our own. The people we have to deal with can be selfish, sometimes even spiteful and vindictive. We need God’s reminder. We need to remember where we came from.
“We ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, deceived….” When we were born into this world, we were no better than our unbelieving and worldly neighbors. (This may be the case even if we were baptized as infants, were brought up in a Christian home, and have lived as Christians all our lives.)
How did we get to be God’s children? How did we become people who know the true God and want to do what is pleasing to Him? It had nothing to do with works of righteousness that we had done. It was God’s mercy that saved us. The kindness and love of God our Savior appeared; the Son of God came into the world and gave His life for us sinners. God brought this salvation to us in the sacrament of Holy Baptism, the “washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” By God’s grace in Christ alone we have been declared righteous and have been made heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Paul exhorts us to show humility in our conduct. It is God’s will for us as His children that we are easy to get along with. He wants us to obey the laws, even when no one is watching; to be willing to lend a hand to those in need; to live peaceably with our neighbors, as much as it depends on us.
Is your boss mean? Is your neighbor inconsiderate? Do you have to work with people who use crude and profane language? Do you have people working under you who are lazy and irresponsible?
If any of these are the case for you, do not look down on others. Instead, remember where you came from. Be kind to them as God has been kind to you. Pray for them as Jesus did for His tormenters. Show them the unconditional love of God.