Purity Isn’t Only About Sexual Attitudes

The first thing we think about when we hear the word “purity” is sexual impurity. Maybe that results from our sex saturated culture. Or maybe it exposes the depth of our own preoccupation with sex. Either way, it is the first thing that comes to our minds, isn’t it?

Perhaps we do need to begin with that connection when the subject of purity comes up, precisely because sex permeates so much of our consciousness. Sexual purity has fallen out of favor even among evangelicals. For the first time in history, evangelicals openly live together outside of marriage and see nothing wrong with that practice. Obviously, fewer and fewer professing Christians believe that sexual behavior should be confined to marriage between one man and one woman until death. In this regard, I agree that purity in sexual conduct can’t be emphasized too often or too strongly.

Was the apostle Paul thinking about sexual purity when he told Titus how older women should mentor younger women?

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. ~~Titus 2:3-5 (NASB95)

Certainly, teaching women the importance of modesty and chastity would have been a key reason for women to teach other women. It would have caused incredible temptation for a man to counsel a woman on such intimate matters. Women can (and sadly do) fall into sexual sin just as easily as men do, making it necessary and crucial to address this type of impurity. Therefore, we cannot and must not neglect this area of instruction.

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What Woman Wants To Be Sensible?

In the 1980s, Cyndi Lauper popularized the song, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” I’ve never listened to the song in its entirety, nor do I intend to do so. But from what I understand from briefly looking it up (so that I’d spell Cyndi Lauper’s name correctly) it’s about a young woman who resists advice to be sensible about her life. She reasons that she can be sensible later in life; at her age, girls just want to have fun.

Yet the apostle Paul instructed Titus that older women should encourage younger women to (among other things) be sensible:

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. ~~Titus 2:3-5 (NASSB95)

Okay, then what does it mean to be sensible? After reading several Bible Dictionaries, I learned that it pretty much means having the wisdom to control one’s passions (or emotions). Interestingly, most women’s Bible Study materials these days not only ignore this part of the text, but often encourage women to let our feelings dictate our behavior.

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“I Don’t Need To Be Taught To Love My Husband And Children!”

Like most 21st Century brides, I was totally in love when I wheeled down the aisle in that white gown and veil. Being almost 49, I didn’t cultivate as many romantic illusions as younger brides do, but I definitely enjoyed the euphoric anticipation of spending my life with such an incredible man. How could loving him be anything but easy? And actually, 20 years later, I still find it easy to love him most of the time. In fact, it often puzzles me when people say marriage takes a lot of hard work — it has been relatively effortless for me.

Although I couldn’t be a mother, I was pretty close to my two nieces while they were growing up. Occasionally I’d inwardly grumble about playing with Barbie dolls or teaching them to lose graciously at checkers, but mostly I savored my time with each of them. Loving these little girls came effortlessly. I treasure memories of tender conversations and funny remarks, and I’m proud of the beautiful young women they’ve become. Loving them is difficult now only because marriage took me 3000 miles away from them. If I have such strong feelings as a mere aunt, I can only imagine the incredible love mothers have for their own children!

Doesn’t a women’s love for her husband and children come naturally? In one sense, it does. But let’s go back to Titus 2:3-5, focusing on verse 4.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. (NASB95)

Why would younger women need encouragement to love their husbands and children? Was Paul really that ignorant of female emotions? To answer that question, let me take you to the two Greek words translated as “love,” and then discuss how to apply them as we relate to our families.

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Before Teaching Younger Women HOW, Let’s Teach Them WHY

We generally fall into one of two ditches in applying Titus 2:3-5 to how we conduct women’s ministry.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. ~~Titus 2:3-5 (NASB95)

The more common ditch (and the one I usually fall into) condenses the passage down to nothing more than women teaching other women. It’s certainly commendable that people recognize that Christian women can use their gifts of teaching without teaching men in violation of 1 Timothy 2:12, and I praise God that women want to obey the Lord. Yes, as godly women, we must be careful not to step outside the boundaries prescribed in God’s Word. In a time when far too many women have declared themselves to be pastors or have taken co-ed Bibles Studies and/or Sunday School classes, it’s refreshing to see women stewarding their teaching abilities appropriately.

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A Landmark Anniversary And Thoughts About Marriage For People With Disabilities

Okay, so for most of you, August 24, 2002 was just an average summer Saturday. You probably can’t remember what you did that day, nor do you really care. I understand. Saturdays come and go usually without much fanfare, and 2002 was, after all, 20 years ago.

But on that Saturday, my life changed dramatically. I entered the church as a single woman, and left it as Mrs. John A. Kespert. Your average summer Saturday turned almost everything in my life upside down and inside out as I started living with a man for the first time since my father died 39 years earlier. These past 20 years have taken me in directions I couldn’t have imagined, sometimes exposing my sin and sometimes showing me the grace of the Lord in the midst of trials. I’ve seen John’s feet of clay, and I’ve seen his Christlike character.

Landmark occasions all but demand some sort of retrospective commentary. But how does a blogger sift through 20 years of memories to come up with a post that will minister to her readers?

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A Portrait Of Humility That Speaks To

Years ago, a church John and I attended did a series on Christian marriage unlike any marriage teaching I’ve heard before or since. The pastor used passages about Christian relationships in general and applied then to marriage in particular. Although his approach seems novel, it actually makes a great deal of sense if we want to teach younger women how to love their husbands and children. Being childless, however, I’m uncomfortable saying much about dealing with children, so I’ll follow that pastor’s example by showing you a few Scriptures that you can use to love your husband in ways that reflect Christ.

In considering where to begin these discussions, I couldn’t get away from the familiar passage in Philippians 2.

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.~~Philippians 2:5:11 (NASB95)

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Teaching The (Usually) Easy Part

John, although he has his moments, is very easy to love. The thought of needing an older woman to teach me to cultivate affectionate feelings towards him amuses me, because those feelings come without much effort on my part. Hopefully most of my married readers can say the same thing about their husbands.

Sadly, many wives don’t have this sort of testimony. Sadder still, even Christian marriages can struggle, with wives experiencing difficulty maintaining affection for their husbands and children. We’ll get to reasons for such problems momentarily, but first we need to go back to Titus 1 for a look at the culture in Crete. Understanding the people Paul originally directed his instructions to gives us clarity on how his instructions apply to 21st Century Christian wives.

In Titus 1, Paul commissioned Titus to appoint elders across the island nation of Crete. These elders would need the ability to deal with troublemakers, whether those who taught false doctrine or those who lived in self-indulgence. Paul reminded Titus that the inhabitants of that island generally lived in flagrant rebellion against God’s laws.

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Introduction To Love

According to Titus 2:3-5, older women are to teach younger women to love their husbands and children. We may think that’s a rather strange instruction. In our culture, we almost universally marry for love, and we can’t help feeling an incredibly deep affection for our children. The Greek word translated “love” in Titus 2:4 does in fact mean to have feelings of affection, which makes us wonder about this imperative. Why on earth, then, would older women need to teach younger women to love the very people whom they would love quite naturally?

As I’ve pondered this matter, I’ve begun thinking about love in general, and Christian love in particular. Loving husbands and children as the Lord would have us love them must go beyond the ways non-Christians love their husbands and children, it seems to me. As believers, we learn how to love by studying the ways that our Lord expresses His love.

This Holy Week directs our attention to Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross — the most powerful display of love in human history. Although none of us can ever hope to love anyone as powerfully as He loves us (because of our inability to atone for the sins of another person), we can still develop an understanding of love that we can approximate to a lesser degree in our relationships.

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Let’s Ask Why

Titus 2:3-5 gives pretty straightforward instructions on older women teaching younger women, doesn’t it? And like it or not, Paul emphasizes teaching younger women domestic duties in the context of marriage and motherhood. Look again with me at the passage:

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. (NASB95)

As I wrote last week, that phrase “what is good” does broaden the scope of what older women can legitimately teach our younger sisters. Soon after I wrote that post, I saw another blogger post a quote from a lesser known Bible commentator reasoning that, since the Titus 2:3-5 passage lists predominantly duties of wives and mothers, older women shouldn’t presume to teach anything outside that sphere. Obviously, I believe that his assertion too narrowly interprets this Scripture.

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Teaching What Is Good — Comma, Colon Or Both?

I nearly failed Latin in college, so I easily decided against taking classes in Classical Greek. Therefore, I don’t claim to know much about the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. As I write this series on Titus 2:3-5, I sort of wish I did know Greek, since the construction of the sentence would probably deepen my understanding.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. (NASB95)

Verse 3, after describing the character qualities older women should exhibit, commissions us to teach what is good. The translators of the New American Standard Bible 1995 indicate that teaching what is good includes the topics listed in verses 4 and 5 by using the phrase, “so that.” This rendering helps us determine that the primary purpose for older women to teach younger women to focuses on encouraging those younger women to be wives and mothers who honor the Lord. Most definitely, we should maintain this goal at all cost!

But does this passage limit us to teaching domestic skills? If Paul had written Titus 2:3-5 in present day American English, would he have placed a comma or a colon after the word “good?”

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