Putting Opponents to Shame
“[Model] sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us” (v. 8).- Titus 2:8
Voices within American evangelicalism have recently sought to change how Christianity is viewed by the culture. At times their criticisms have some warrant — we have not always presented the gospel humbly and graciously, and we are sometimes more concerned with winning an argument than with saving souls. Our engagement of the culture and politics has not always been productive in advancing the gospel. Some of those doing the criticizing point out rightly that the answer to these problems is to return to Scripture’s vision for the church in the world. Unfortunately, many critics end up compromising the Lord’s standards and denying the gospel altogether in their endeavor to win over the church’s “cultured despisers.” Even if we have made mistakes engaging with society, Christians should never attempt to identify Christ’s kingdom with earthly politics or compromise on the exclusivity of Christianity if that is what will make us acceptable to the world.
The relationship between church and culture is complex, but Paul certainly does not mean for us to change biblical truth to prevent non-Christians from speaking evil of us (Titus 2:8). Paul is not implying that we force everyone who is outside the church to stop slandering the gospel. Besides, if the gospel is never hated, then it is likely not the true gospel. It is one thing to criticize us for affirming what Scripture teaches, quite another to disparage us for not conforming to the basic ideas of right and wrong that even the pagans can discern from creation. Let them hate us for holding fast to the Lord’s view of sin and salvation, but let us never add fuel to their fire by violating both what Scripture and nature tell us is evil. John Calvin comments, “The more we perceive that we are keenly observed by enemies, let us be the more attentive to guard against their [slanders], and thus let their [hatred] strengthen in us the desire of doing well.”
When we give the enemies of God no legitimate basis for slander, then their charges will prove empty and their reputations will one day be discredited. All of us, especially elders and pastors (Titus 2:7–8), should watch our conduct and speech that we might bear effective witness to the life-transforming gospel.
As we have noted again and again, the world should not expect Christians to be perfect, but it should expect us to have a life that is observably different than the non-Christians around us. This entails a commitment to living as God would have us live and an honesty to admit our sins and failings to others. It also means that we forgive those who ask our pardon. When you sin are you quick to admit it? When others repent are you quick to forgive?
Passages for Further Study
1 Corinthians 4
1 Peter 2:11–12