Although it is always humbling to read the word of God, my reading in the book of Titus this morning was especially humbling. After addressing the issue of false teachers, Paul turns his attention in chapter 2 to the things that he wants Titus to do in contrast with those false teachers; namely to teach the congregation what is in accord with sound doctrine.
Paul paints a visual picture for Titus of the fruit or behaviors that should result and be expected from different groups in the congregation as a result of this teaching. Two of the groups he addressed included both “older men” and “younger men”. As much as I wanted to classify myself as a “younger” man I realized the section that I should probably focus on the most was the instructions targeted toward the “older” men. Although I hate to admit it, it’s true. I am older. I even have a bum back reminding me of that fact every single day (should putting on socks and shoes really hurt this badly?).
So, what were Paul’s instructions to the older men?
“Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.”
If that is what older men are to be like and if I’m an older man, what does this all mean?
Sober-minded: this means that older men are to be temperate, restrained and self-controlled and not given to excess or not be a slave to appetites (both good and bad) of the flesh. This is really about being clear-headed in thought, approach and action.
Dignified: this doesn’t necessarily need to mean stuffy but it certainly means worthy of respect. In other words, don’t be a clown, bro.
Self-controlled: This is essentially a reinforcement of the call to be sober-minded. I’m thinking the call to be wise, thoughtful and prudent must be pretty important.
Sound in faith, love and steadfastness: The word “sound” in this context essentially means “healthy”. So older men are not to have faith in their own personal experience but rather they are to have a healthy faith and trust in the Lord. Likewise, they are to be healthy in their love for God and the things that God loves – His word (the truth) and His people (the church). And the word for steadfastness essentially means a “patient endurance”. Older men are to persevere and finish the race, not swerving to the right or the left. Older men are to be overcomers and not easily shaken. Their testimony and witness are to remain strong to the end.
This list is really not that much different than what is expected of overseers and deacons as Paul outlined in his letters to Timothy. Paul is basically describing some of the characteristics of what it looks like to be a mature Christian.
As the father of three young children it is not too difficult for me to imagine why it is important for older men to behave in this way. As an older man, I am to provide a witness and example for the younger men and women of the faith to follow. They are to imitate me as I imitate Christ. Of course, if I’m being honest, much of my example seems to be focused on repentance. But, as I continue to work out my salvation with fear and trembling and as God continues His work of sanctification in my life, I make it my goal to fulfill my duty of an older man.