Titus 1     “Cretans”


            Many years ago, decades ago in fact, I was the pastor at a church in Westwood, Los Angeles. The church had a nice parking lot on what was otherwise a pay-to-park part of town. So, people liked to just pull into the church and run off to the businesses that were right there.

            One day a very fashionable lady pulled in to park at the church. She was driving a gold colored Mercedes convertible. I happened to be outside painting a fence at the time in my paint clothes. I looked wretched. It was hot, and I had become sweaty. The lady looked at me. I looked at her. Finally she spoke, “Is it okay to park her for just a minute?”

            I smiled at her and answered, “Well of course church members can park any time at their church.” She seemed to squirm a little in her seat at this. “You are a church member, aren’t you?”

            She cleared her throat and started to get out of the car, saying, “Yes, I am a member.”

            “It’s me, your pastor! Don’t you recognize me?” I called back to her just as she opened the door and began to step out. She sat back in the seat, closed the door, started the engine and sped off with a disgusted wave of the hand.


            One of the things I love about Titus is that he shows no pretense whatsoever. He is who he is. He is a Cretan, and proud of it! Comparing him to Timothy, who Saint Paul also names as a “child,” we should note that Timothy was circumcised by Saint Paul. In other words, Timothy became outwardly a Jew in order to be a Christian. None of that for Titus! He is a Christian because he is a Christian. He believes in Jesus Christ. Otherwise he is a Greek. Not just a Greek, he is a Cretan. Amen to that. You see, you can be a Cretan and still be a good Christian!

            Nope, one does not have to perfect in order to be a Christian. In fact if you think that you are perfect already, then Christianity really has nothing to offer you. If Christ died for our sins, but we think that we are somehow already without sin, then the crucifixion is meaningless. We have to know that we are flawed—and not be ashamed therefore of what is simply the honest truth of who we are. In a way it is better to be a Cretan and state that outright for the whole world to hear and understand.

            About Crete, that blessed Greek Island, it seems that the ancient Minoan culture, that pre-Hellenic seafaring race, spread civilization all over the Mediterranean Sea. They were the ones that pre-dated and started the Greek culture which is the proto-culture to all things European or Western today. We should be proud to be related to Cretans!

            Another interesting fact about Crete is that it is the only part of Europe that the Nazis could never fully conquer during World War II. The natives would never give up the island. When the Germans tried to build an airstrip, the Cretans tore apart. German navy ships were constantly being sabotaged and bombed. The Cretans never gave up. They were there standing their ground proudly when the British came up from North Africa. Let’s talk about Cretan pride!


            The other really interesting thing about Titus from the perspective of early ministry is that Saint Paul “left him behind.” So often we like to think of life as a journey. We look at the travels of Paul, Peter, and of course Jesus himself, and we want to compare our own faith journeys. That is cool. Of course we accept that. Yet, with Titus, he is left on the island of Crete. He is left behind. I know this sounds like a Tim LeHaye novel or movie, but without all the apocalyptic fanfare.

            Like we sometimes say here on Kauai: “Titus is stuck on the rock.” He is not going anywhere. Crete is actually about six times larger than Kauai, so there is more space to roam, but it is far more barren than here. So, for Titus maybe we should not talk so much about a faith journey as such. What should we say? An island of faith? Find your faith where you are! A home based Christianity! You do not have to get off the rock to have a mission. I know all those other people are choosing to do their missions in out on the French Riviera and exotic Cozumel—be satisfied where God has placed you! Sometimes God needs you right where you are!


            I want to point out something else in our text this morning that is really quite unique as I think it only appears here in the Bible: I am referring to verse 11. Saint Paul is talking about all those others in the church that are not really causing problems for the early church. What does he say to do? What does he instruct Titus to do? “Silence them.” That sounds ominous to say the least! If this were a line from the movie The Godfather, we would knowingly assume what comes next.

            Rightly, we cannot take this advice to “silence” people out of the culture of the time. And, we really need to look at the original idiom here, too. The word that is being used in the Greek is επιστομίζεν. It means to cover the mouth and was used specifically to bridle an animal such as a horse or donkey. I might translate this as “bridle the neigh sayers” rather than “silence them.” A bridle does not stop the animal from making noise in the least, but it means the animal is reigned in and will follow the driver on the reigns. It makes the beast of burden useful again. There is an element of control. And most importantly, the ministry keeps moving forward.

            In your own lives, if you have disagreements with others, do not think so much about “silencing them.” Too often we just get rid of those we do not agree with. That is not to the benefit of Jesus’ ministry at all. We like to apply “cancel culture” and try to “deplatform” them. We take that person off our social media feeds and the like. That just is not serving God’s greater good. After all, people will always have opinions that do not match yours. If you get rid of one, you will have to get rid of them all and go live like a hermit in a cave somewhere. Ministry is about people, and people will always have things to say! Just pull on their reigns and bridle them for the purpose of ministry.

            To tell a Cretan to silence someone might mean that person will be taken out and really silenced—if you know what I mean! We all know Saint Paul is not suggesting that. If that were so, we would have a cemetery full of bodies surrounding our church! Ha ha.


            Saint Paul goes on to tell Titus about being “pure.” Check out verse 15 here. I find this interesting because Jesus himself always seemed to be frustrated with the Pharisees and their “purity” laws. Matthew 15:11-12, Jesus says, “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out. . .” Then, the disciples come up and state that the Pharisees are upset with Jesus on this point.

            The word that Paul chooses to talk about purity here is καθαρα, from whence we get such terms in English as “catharsis.” It is a reference to that which has been cleansed, but not necessarily through some ritualistic cleansing as is in the Jewish tradition. But rather, we are cleansed from sin by the blood of Jesus. Check out Ephesians 1:7, “In him we have redemption through his blood. . . .” 

            The famous lines that come from 1 John 1:7 that are so often spoken right before taking communion: “If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another; and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from sin.”

            During these Covid days, we have been obsessed with what is clean and what is not. We continually wash our hands, wear rubber gloves, keep the air clear of virus by masking up. Yet, we all know that we are not really clean and pure. There is plenty of dust still in the air. Nothing can ever be fully purified.

            Yet, Paul is stating that there is such a thing as a truly pure heart because it has not been cleansed by any human action but rather by the divine grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is that one thing on this planet that can be called pure—a heart that truly knows Jesus.

            Now, I think about Paul and his entire life being called up to judgment before God. Would he pass the purity test? In one sense he has already. We know that in his role on the Sanhedrin he would have had occasion to enter into the temple of Jerusalem. He passed the Jewish test of cleanliness that is spoken of in Psalm 24:3 and on, “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false. . . “

            So, I was thinking that when we come into our fellowship we should imagine that we are approaching the holiest of holies in the Temple of Jerusalem. We should think about cleansing our hearts before we worship. Matthew 5:23 from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus states: “If you are coming to offer your gift before the altar but then remember that you have something against your brother, go and reconcile to him first. . . .”

            Only God can clearly purify our hearts through the blood of Jesus; however, even before we can approach that place before God and Jesus, we must reconcile ourselves to those in need of forgiveness from us. We have real work to do. Very difficult work indeed. Thereafter, we approach God and accept the cleansing of grace—through communion.