Earning Our Reputation

I am a bit of a perfectionist. Well, perhaps that’s not possible. But I try to keep my perfectionist tendencies in check. And I am often aware of how imperfectly I manage this. :).

Perfectionists aren’t easy to live with, or work for. We are hard on ourselves and others. The term has fallen out of style, probably because it seems judgey. Which is the issue- that we are constantly judging ourselves, forever evaluating, often coming up short.

We have high expectations. We see what could be, aspiring toward an ideal. When I read Titus, I hear these aspirations. My nun reflected that it sounded rather harsh. (She is getting her second hip replacement, at 80, Thursday. Please pray for Sister Charlene.)

But I understand Paul’s concerns. Those on this island in Greece had earned a reputation, a stereotype we might say. (If you are procrastinating, check out current stereotypes of Greeks and compare to the ancient world.) Too strict adherence to the moral law was not their problem. As Paul explained to Titus:

Someone who is one of their own prophets said, “People from Crete are always liars, wild animals, and lazy gluttons.” Titus 1:12 (CEB)

Ouch. It is always good to be reminded these letters were written a couple thousand years ago, in a language we don’t speak, in a context quite different than American Christianity today. Remembering Paul’s mission: to spread the good news to everyone “to bring about the faith of God’s chosen people and a knowledge of the truth that agrees with godliness.” Titus 1:1b (CEB)

Paul is concerned about reputation. He knows that Jesus transforms lives. Paul’s encounter with Jesus turned his understanding of Hebrew Scripture upside down. His passion to restrict the people of God to a narrow observant lifestyle was transformed into a mission to preach the expansion of the Chosen to Gentile heathens all over the (known) world.

As believers, what stereotype of ourselves, based on some reality, concerns us? What is the reputation of (white? evangelical? American?) Christians? The Christianese for reputation, or stereotype, is witness. What is our witness in the world? Listen to Paul’s motives:

-so that God’s word won’t be ridiculed.
-they won’t find anything bad to say about us.
-make the teaching about God our savior attractive in every way. 

Titus 2:5b, 8b, 10b (CEB)

Paul’s specific behavioral instructions to various segments of society were designed to counteract the negative cultural reputation of the day. What advice might he give in our time to help us exemplify the opposite of our stereotypes? In order for our knowledge of the truth to agree with godliness.

Are our words and our lives making the teaching about God our savior attractive? Because I too believe that Jesus changes lives, as he continues to transform mine. And Jesus is good news- for perfectionists, liars, and lazy gluttons alike. Reminding me of Amy Grant’s song about our common humanity and living into our unique expression of identity:

We believe in God
And we all need Jesus
‘Cause life is hard
And it might not get easier
But don’t be afraid
To know who you are
Don’t be afraid to show it

We believe in God
And we all need Jesus

As we go about our day, our week, our lives, may God’s truth continue to transform us. Beyond stereotypes. Into the people God is creating.


Bulletin: 11/11
Order of Service: 11/11
Sermon: Loving Our (political) Enemies: 1 John 5

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