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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Will I Have An Occasional Glass Of Wine?

If you want a lively debate with other Christians, just mention alcohol! You’ll get impassioned responses from people on all sides of the issue, and you may even damage one or two of your friendships in the process (I say that mostly in jest).

Alcohol consumption among Christians has always required a careful reading of Scripture and an understanding of Christian liberty in the light of exhortations towards temperance. It’s a sensitive topic, requiring extensive study coupled with prayer for wisdom to apply God’s Word accurately and lovingly. Therefore, this small blog post can’t thoroughly examine the matter.

Truth be told, I really don’t want to blog about alcohol. But we can’t work through Titus 2:3-5 unless we deal with Paul’s command to older women women regarding this topic.

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Why I’d Rather Not Blog About Matt Chandler And His Online Conversations

Firstly, Matt Chandler has never been more than an occasional blip on my discernment radar. I’ve vaguely been aware that he has some questionable theology, so I’ve kept him at arm’s length. But, as I’ve said before, I no longer have time nor energy to research all the celebrity pastors and teachers who populate the evangelical landscape. So in that respect, I really don’t care about the online conversations with a woman that led to him stepping down from his ministry position. So much about that situation remains unclear at this point that I just don’t feel knowledge enough to formulate an opinion. Actually, I see no valid reason for me to formulate an opinion.

My invalid reason for formulating an opinion would be to reinstate my discernment blogger status. My article on God’s wrath didn’t attract many readers, even though such articles on Christian doctrine develop discernment much more effectively than articles exposing false teachers and evangelical celebrities. If I’d dig up some juicy dirt on Matt Chandler and add in some speculation, I’d draw attention.

This matter ties in with my ongoing examination of Titus 2:3-5:

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Older Women Need Instruction Too

Titus 2:3-5 seems to have become the definitive passage for determining the entire sphere of Biblical womanhood. It’s foundational, certainly, and a necessary corrective to the damage feminism has caused in recent decades. As Biblical women, you and I must obey its teaching, especially when it comes against the rebellious standards imposed on us by the world.

At the same time, some people react to feminism by making overly narrow applications of this passage, usually zeroing in on younger women working within the home. That assumption needs to be addressed at some point, as a few verses in Proverbs 31 provide qualifications that we have to consider. But as I’ve thought about taking you through Titus 2:3-5, it’s occurred to me that I’ve also gotten sucked in to the narrow discussion of a woman’s place being in the home. So I want to back up a bit and look more carefully at the passage. Specifically, I want to say a few things about Paul’s commands to older 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)

Yes, the passage clearly says that older women are to teach younger women with the goal of encouraging them to be wives and mothers who work on managing their homes. But that just isn’t the sum total of these three verses. Look at the first few clauses.

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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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Does Titus 2:3-5 Ignore Single Women?

As my friends and I moved through our late 30s without double rings on the third fingers of our left hands, we harbored ambivalent feelings about what older women should teach us. On the one hand, we did want teaching on how to be godly wives and mothers. Maybe learning these skills would nudge God into bringing us husbands, we reasoned. At least, that was my reasoning. Additionally, I believed older women could teach me how to attract a godly man in the first place. Hunger for marriage certainly makes a young woman eager to learn the things Paul lists in Titus 2:3-5.

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)

On the other hand, single women can feel left out if women’s Bible Studies revolve completely around marriage and child rearing. Not every godly woman has the opportunity to marry. Sometimes the only available men aren’t Christians, in which case marriage would be an act of disobedience. Thus, sitting through continual instruction on marriage and motherhood would just pour salt on the gaping wounds of singleness. Speaking from years of experience as an unmarried woman (who desperately wanted to be married), I really didn’t appreciate lessons on domestic skills.

As I’ve stated earlier in this series, I agree that the primary thrust of Titus 2:3-5 focuses on marriage and motherhood. That emphasis sadly gets downplayed nowadays, which I believe is a terrible flaw in typical women’s ministries. At the same time, however, I also believe that we must offer ministry to women who (through no fault of their own) have no romantic prospects.

Consider, please, the account of Martha and Mary.

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