My wife, Debbie, and I are playing new grandparents again—at least for a few weeks. During the daytime, she is taking care of a young couple’s four-month-old child. This precious little girl is not our actual granddaughter, of course. Our youngest grandson—we have two—just turned eighteen years of age, so it has been a few years since we’ve heard an infant’s coos, cries, and happy squeals in the house. Amazingly, Debbie’s excellent caregiving instincts and techniques reappeared immediately.
On the two days per week that I work from home, I get to see our little guest during breaks and lunchtime. I have been reminded during those times of how much—and how fast—little ones learn by what they see and hear. So, I am reminded also of how vital it is for grown-ups to set good examples for those who are watching and listening to them.
As the apostle Paul wrote to Titus, who was helping new churches on the island of Crete begin to grow, he reminded Titus of the importance of setting a good example of Christian living. People were watching the Christians on the island. New believers were watching and listening to older believers. What people heard and saw from Christians every day shaped what those people learned about Christ and Christianity.
And the same is true today.
We find in Titus 2:1-15 at least four examples that every Christian can set. We can start setting these examples immediately. We don’t have to wait until we’re a certain age. We don’t have to graduate from seminary first. We just have to commit to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our lives. By obeying the Spirit, we will set good examples for others to see and learn from.
Set an example of sound beliefs. In Titus 2:1, Paul urged Titus to “proclaim things consistent with sound teaching.” In verses 2-5, the apostle described what sound beliefs look like when translated into one’s lifestyle. We all have beliefs, a worldview so to speak. We start forming some beliefs very early in life, even in infancy, as we watch and listen to those around us. Sound Christian beliefs are grounded in the gospel—confessing with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing in your heart that God raised Him from the dead (see Rom. 10:9-10). Sound Christian living springs from sound Christian beliefs.
Set an example of good works. Paul urged Titus to make himself “an example of good works with integrity and dignity in your teaching” (2:7). Essentially, the apostle was reminding believers that the way we live and relate to others ought to match with what we teach about the gospel. Simply put, we should practice what we preach. The apostle James illustrated Paul’s point this way: “If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, stay warm, and be well fed,’ but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it?” (Jas. 2:15-16). The apostle John put the matter even more bluntly when he wrote, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar” (1 John 4:20). Every Christian can and should set an example of good works.
Set an example of faithfulness. In Titus 2:9-10, Paul exhorted slaves who had become Christians to demonstrate “utter faithfulness, so that [you] may adorn the teaching of God our Savior in everything.” The faithfulness Paul referred to was not only faithfulness to Christ but also faithfulness to their human masters. I cannot begin to understand what life as a slave in the first century (or any century) must have been like. Even less can I comprehend what it was like to experience spiritual freedom in Christ yet remain a slave to a human master. What we learn from Paul’s teaching and example—the apostle experienced more than once what it was like to be imprisoned unjustly—is that a Christian attitude and lifestyle can have a powerful impact on others regardless of the Christian’s circumstances. An example of utter Christian faithfulness means that I speak and act in the same Christlike way at work and at home as I do at church.
Set an example of enduring hope. In Titus 2:12-13, Paul urged all Christians to “live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Today—as in Paul’s day—the world languishes under the wickedness that comes from the devil’s frantic, last-ditch efforts to inflict as much damage as possible to God’s creation (see Rev. 12:13-17). As Christians, we may sometimes wonder how long God will allow such wickedness to persist. We may wonder whether our efforts to live faithfully, do good works, and maintain sound Christian beliefs makes any difference. The answer to both of these questions lies in the certainty of our “blessed hope.” Christ’s return will usher in the Lord’s final victory over the devil, wickedness, and death. Further, His return will vindicate every believer’s enduring hope in God.
How can you begin to set an example of Christian living or strengthen your example in one or more of the ways described above?
David Briscoe is a content editor at Lifeway for Explore the Bible resources.