Titus 3                “Good Deeds”


            One of the side effects of the pandemic has been for me a personal philosophical struggle stemming from my family’s historical past. I know that sounds wacky, so let me explain. Europe has closed its borders to the rest of the world in order to contain the spread of the Corona Virus. I understand that. The United States has done very much the same. We just stopped all people from India from coming in now.

            Yet, I still have family in Germany. With an American passport, I cannot get back to visit them. I recently reapplied for a German passport—which I have not held since I was 17. In essence, I have become a German again so that I can travel back to Germany.

            In all of this, I have struggled with an internal issue of “How can I be German again?” I have lived most of my life struggling with that German side of me. You see, my father was part of the Hitler Youth. My grandfather was in the Nazi army as a cartographer. So, I have quite a Fascist family history. I struggle with the idea that my family participated—though in limited fashion—with the annihilation of 8 million innocent people in the Holocaust. So, when I go apply for the German passport again, I wonder what it is exactly that I am signing up for.

            You see, I know that Germany is still chock full of Nazis. Recently the fascist aligned parties have been gaining in political power. When I was in school there, the “pathfinders” (German Boy Scouts) were preparing for the time when they would need the concentration camps again. In Ulm, where I was, they were rebuilding the Kuhberg concentration camp. Some called it an historical preservation, others called it “getting ready.”

            There were pro-Nazi parades in Ulm. My friends and I would march in the anti-Nazi parade on the parallel street. The police would come and break up our rally so the Nazis could march unimpeded. I think it was an open secret that the Bavarian police were pro-fascist back then. I do not think they are anymore. I ask myself today, “Why am I signing back up for this?”


            Back before Hitler came to power in Germany, a German university professor and pastor by the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer stood up against the rise of fascism in Germany. He felt that his faith in Christ called him to stand up against the nationalistic propaganda machine and dictatorship of Hitler. Of course, Hitler had him thrown in jail and he lived out the war himself in a concentration camp. He was hanged just a few days before the Americans would have liberated the camp.

            While there he was able to write. His now famous work, a must-read for all pastors, is The Cost of Discipleship. He makes it clear that following Christ means just that: We follow Christ—not the Hitlers of the world.

            Dietrich Bonhoeffer was once asked why the German people came to follow Hitler at all. He responded “billige Gnade,” “Cheap grace.” You see, we as Christians have an understanding that we are saved by grace alone. Nothing we can do can get us to heaven on our own. And, that is true. God can forgive us of all our sins through His Son Jesus Christ. But, that is God’s doing not ours. When we bestow that grace upon ourselves, we fail. It must come through repentance and confession before God.

            What Dietrich Bonhoeffer was referring to was that when Hitler came to power, the Nazis sent a letter out to all the church pastors demanding that they endorse Hitler from their pulpits. A vast majority of the pastors signed off saying “May God forgive me. . .” They bestowed God’s grace upon themselves. Never did they think that God’s own Son went to the  Cross, died for their sins, so that they could endorse pure evil and think that God would have to forgive them afterwards.


            Besides, Saint Paul in Titus 3 says “Be subject to the authorities.” That verse is taken so completely out of context if it is applied to Hitler! Isn’t it? Everything that follows is about being loving and kind, gentle and helpful to others. It is so clear what Saint Paul was saying here.

            The first word of this text is “Remember” or “Remind.” As we continue to read down we see the mention of the time of personal acceptance of Christ, repentance through baptism, and the anointing of a life by the Holy Spirit. Remember that Christ died on the Cross so that you can now enjoin this new life with God in heaven.

            As the text continues Saint Paul talks about “profitability.” A Christian profits in this world by sharing the goodness of God with others. Cheap grace is what we can take for ourselves when we forget about the cost of discipleship. True grace is what brings profit to God when we share God with others.


            In verse seven of today’s scripture is the term “justified.”  “So that we might be justified by His grace.” “Justified” is a unique term indeed. It simply means that one day we will have to stand up and explain ourselves for what we did in our lives—how we spent our days in this world. Revelation 20:11-12 “.. . .Then I saw a great white throne and him who sat upon it. . . .I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done.”

            When we talk about being justified today, it is usually in the context of the court, so a judge or a jury, stepping in to a situation to make a judgment. So, today, we have what is called justifiable homicide by self-defense. “I did not mean to kill the man, but he lunged at me with a knife.”

But, this is different when we talk about justification by faith. The judge is all-knowing God. We know that someone has already died on the cross because of what we have done. What is our response going to be, knowing that someone has already died for us because of what we have done?

What if it was not Jesus?  Stay with me here. What if it was your best friend who said that they would take the guilt and shame of everything you have ever done in your life and pay for it with his or her life? What if it was your wife or husband? Can you even imagine the amount of love and self-sacrifice that would represent to your life?

John 3:16, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. . . .” My life, our lives, can only be justified by the love that God had for us that He would want to save us. 


For those who want to try to self-justify, they do not understand that there is a cost of discipleship. They believe that grace is cheap. They think that they can apply that grace themselves rather than by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Paul calls this kind of thinking “foolish.” Check out verse 3: “For we ourselves were once foolish.” And he says that those people who engage in this foolishness should only be reminded twice. Check out verse 10 ‘. . . .after admonishing once or twice, have nothing more to do with him.” Wow, not even three strikes! We continue to read, “. . .knowing that such a man is perverted and sinful; he is self-condemned.”

If we even try to self-justify, if we try to simply apply God’s grace to our own lives rather than allowing God, then we are self-condemned.


I am not going to let you leave here today thinking that you have been in anyway condemned. What Paul is telling to Titus here is that, yes, we were once foolish, but not anymore. Read verse 4: “When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us. Not because of the deeds we had done, but because of his mercy.”

I want you to leave here today feeling as if every bad thing in your life has been covered by God’s grace. I want you to accept the goodness and loving kindness that God has for you. I want you to accept that grace, but know that it is the most precious grace. There is nothing cheap about it. And, in response to that grace, do as Paul suggests, go out and do good deeds and be fruitful to God.


This I pray in Christ’s name, Amen.