Writing to his student and coworker, Titus, the apostle Paul gave some direction regarding proper Christian conduct. Concerning older men and women, he wrote, “Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior… (Titus 2:2-3a; ESV)”
These are qualities sometimes in short supply in the world, but Christians need to recognize that these same qualities are highly desirable. They are qualities that are expected of mature Christians. They are qualities that each follower of Christ should strive to possess. Nor are they just desirable “options.” Rather these are specifically qualities that God wants all men to possess. These are the qualities that are, “in accord with sound doctrine (cf. Titus 2:1).”
Which means, if you think about it, that being undignified and irreverent is not in accordance with sound Christian doctrine, and the Bible says as much. Timothy, as a young man of God, was three times told to avoid irreverent speech and ideas (cf. 1 Timothy 4:7, 6:20; 2 Timothy 2:16). Speaking to the Ephesian church, the Spirit said, “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:4; ESV).”
Conversely, the Christian ideal is to “lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence (1 Timothy 2:2; NKJV).”
The word “dignity,” used in Titus 2:2, is from the Greek, “semnos,” and it means to be serious and honorable. “Reverence,” as used in Titus 2:3, means to be respectful, giving proper attention to those things deserving of respect, and/or worship.
How we present ourselves to those around us, how we interact with them, and the manner in which we conduct ourselves are all matters that followers of Christ should take seriously. This is a principle true of both our speech and conduct.
Not that there’s not a place for humor in life. God made us able to laugh and smile and have joy, and these aspects of our nature are a blessing. But what we laugh about is something to give some thought to. Are we laughing at crudity? Sinful behavior? Other people? Or are we laughing at ourselves and our own absurdities?
Mocking things which should not be mocked is a worldly trait, not a godly trait. The term, “mocker,” is one used derisively throughout the Bible as another name for “sinner.” Laughing at others is a hurtful behavior, not a loving behavior. Making light of sin and wickedness makes us take such things less seriously. Jesus warned us, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak (Matthew 12:28; ESV).” Likewise, in the Proverbs, God cautions, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise (Proverbs 10:19; NKJV).”
Likewise, with our behavior. Being wild, uncontrolled, and generally undisciplined is not a sign of spiritual maturity. Over and over again, God tries to teach us to have self-control. Learning how to control our energies so as to present ourselves to others in a calm, rational way is good practice for controlling ourselves in the face of temptations or sorrows. Learning to restrain our impulses in normal situations teaches us restraint in abnormal ones. We do ourselves no favors when we excuse our own lack of self-control. Moreover, we hurt our own influence with others.
If we conduct ourselves with dignity, speaking with reverence and self-control, we are going to be the kind of people that others take more seriously. Which is important if we have a message that we want other people to take seriously. Which, followers of Christ do indeed possess.
Therefore, going back to what Paul wrote to Titus, we should give consideration to the advice that Paul gave that young man concerning himself, “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us (Titus 2:7-8; ESV).”
The church of Christ invites you to come worship with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise, if you have any question you would like answered or addressed, please share them with us.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.