To Titus, my true son in our common faith: Titus 1:4
These are powerful words about Titus, earth shaking descriptors, from a spiritual giant such as Paul. Paul was a Jew. Titus was a Gentile. Yet Paul was Titus’ spiritual father. And Titus was Paul’s true spiritual convert, a son whom he had discipled.
Why did Paul need to start his letter to the Cretan churches this way? Perhaps because Titus was the one who would deliver hard truth to them, and the only way they would take his words seriously would be to hear Titus’ spiritual credentials. They were reminded that he was trustworthy and commissioned by one they respected.
The Gospel blurs racial lines of bigotry. It did for Paul and Titus, Jew and Gentile, and it did for Ananias and Paul after Saul became a believer. (Can you imagine how hard it was for Ananias to trust Paul, considering Paul’s history of murderous rages against believers?) It also blurred the lines between Jews and Samaritans. Jesus paved the way as he went off his normal route to meet a woman at a well in Samaria.
And today, the Gospel unites the racially divided, those who would otherwise be enemies. Blacks and whites. Muslims and Jews. Jews and Gentiles. Those from the Middle East are welcomed by Western believers when Christ is at the center of their relationships. Is there initial distrust? Most likely. There is a history, after all. Perhaps this was why Ananias was given a vision by God that assured him that Paul could be trusted. While we may or may not have visions about those with whom we have been ethnically divided, the Holy Spirit is at work to confirm that there is a bond in Christ.
Oh, the power of the Gospel. It can even overcome family biases. Those who once were alienated are brought near through the cross. Husbands and wives who were on their way to the divorce lawyer can be reconciled through the blood of the Lamb. Parents and children who will no longer share a meal can once again embrace because of their shared loved for Christ. A history of hurt can be just history.
Who are my true brothers today? My trust sisters in the faith? Of whom am I still suspicious, a wall of offense that is grieving the Holy Spirit? Who am I unwilling to pray for with the heart of Jesus? Am I just as willing to pray for the salvation of an Isis-K member as I am my neighbor down the street? It should be so.
Titus and Paul. Their origins and cultures were night and day. Give me your heart for those who are not like me. Amen