COLLECT OF THE WEEK
Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. - Book of Common Prayer, p. 217
Titus 3:3-8 is one of those gems in Paul’s epistles where the Christian gospel is stated with compactness, elegance, and clarity. What’s really interesting is that it follows and was prompted by some instructions from Paul on Christian behavior in verses 1 and 2.
The behavior instructions for disciples of Christ are challenging. Be ready to do whatever is good. Slander no one (really, are there no exceptions?), be peaceable, considerate, gentle. This is a tall order, hard for my sinful flesh. On my own, I cannot live this way.
Knowing this, Paul goes on to recall the spiritual condition and personal history of every true disciple. Because we were once “enslaved” by sin, we lived in “malice and envy” (the very opposite of the way we are called to live now). Then, not because of any “righteous things” we did, but out of God’s kindness, mercy, and love, he saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal through Christ, with the result that we are now justified and heirs of the hope of eternal life.
The two little words “so that” in the next sentence are critical. “And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.” Here, in “these things” is the motivation, the transforming power that can enable us to do, increasingly, whatever is good. Discipleship is way of living in response to a profound act of love by God.