Friday, January 5, 2018

That Pesky Titus 2

“...that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored.” - Titus 2:4+5

This exhortation to young women cannot be neglected; it is clear in the text, but it is not culturally acceptable today, and as such it is easy to let it go unmentioned. Sinful man is very concerned with self-definition, self-realization, and unbridled autonomy. But God is in the business of bridling His creation; He both creates and defines what He has created. Truly, He is the most qualified to do the defining, and it is in keeping His commandments that our joy is made full. The bridling of the horse unleashes its power. (John 15)

From my own limited experience and observation, it seems that about ten years ago this passage and its presentation of the homemaking woman was very much in vogue in conservative Christian circles; honestly, it was perhaps presented a little too unilaterally, without enough room for Christian liberty and variety in application. A home business was the only option for a single young woman who wanted to be financially productive. For a girl to consider a college education was heresy- maybe not punishable by the tribunal, but certainly deserving of concerned condescension. Christian womanhood was supposed to look the same way for everyone. But that never happens, and it isn’t supposed to. The tapestry of the Church is a varicolored tunic, not a straightjacket.

Now, however, we seem to have taken a ride on the pendulum; now, we not only embrace Christian liberty and variety, but we practically disembowel the Scriptural commands in the process. We have rejected straightjacket and varicolored tunic alike, and we are running through the streets baring our liberty for all to see. Now this passage really means nothing- yes, we accept it as Scripture, and we make a nod to some vague idea about the wife being the homemaker. But Titus 2 doesn’t really have much bearing on whether or not my wife should get a job, or whether or not our girls should learn old-fashioned homemaking tasks. Perhaps most damaging of all is the strong perception that keeping the home and raising the kids is a second-level calling, as if the passionate pursuit of this essential mission reduces a woman to being too easily satisfied. As if “stay at home mom” was equivalent to “the help.”

This passage does mean something, and we cannot shy away from it; we must let God speak. God has called women to a different role than men, and for a woman to set that calling aside is for her to take a step down, not a step up. God does call women to be home-centered (and He does call them to be subject to their husbands, since we’re already stepping on toes here). It is straightforward in the text. It isn’t for me or anyone else to define for everyone exactly what those two things mean in practice. But the point is that they mean something. The application of the principle will vary, but there must be an application.

We cannot be ashamed of the Word of God. His commands are good, and they bring life and joy.

If we do not embrace this facet of God’s design for His people, then we will give occasion for the Word of God to be dishonored.


Jasmine Ruigrok said...

You speak about the pendulum swing here, but fail to clearly specify what you believe is the correct application of this Scripture. Are you saying that we should neither become legalistic nor ignore this passage, however the way we apply it will differ according to circumstance? I don't believe it has any bearing on single women as it is clearly directed to young women who have husbands. Being a wife, mother and homemaker is not a second-level calling at all, it is exactly that: a calling, and no calling should be elevated above or lowered beneath another since every person's calling is unique. That's my two cents.

Gabriel Hudelson said...

Hey Jasmine! It's good to hear from you. :-) Yes, that was intentional... the point of my post is to set a Biblical framework in an area where I don't think we really can specify the correct application for everyone unilaterally.

I do, however, disagree with the statement that it doesn't have "any bearing on single women." The focus is indeed on married women, but that doesn't mean that it can't also have applications for the single. Especially since- the truth of your statement about callings notwithstanding- the majority of women (and men) are called to marriage. So while I agree that marriage is a matter of calling, I believe that:

1. Most people are called to marriage (and thus would do well to have that in mind as they pursue the Kingdom as single adults)
2. There are certain constants that color what God portrays as good for men and women in general, and those things should be embraced even by the single

There is a vast difference between the mindset of "I'm a young woman sitting around waiting for marriage" (wrong), "I'm a young woman and I'm going to just throw myself into an independent career and if marriage happens, hey, great" (also wrong- there is an undeniable home-centricity and headship pattern that God presents even for unmarried girls, IMO), and "I'm a young woman looking to seek first the Kingdom and redeem the time, therefore I am going to..." (right, and I can't fill in the blank at the end because that is between you, your dad/parents/family/church elders, and God.)

Hope that is helpful. Thanks for the discussion. :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post, Gabriel. It's been fascinating to watch the clarification that has surrounded this topic recently in the conservative Christian circles. Commenting on your above comment, what would you say the application of Titus 2 is for the single woman? I've not yet found someone willing to expand on that. Does it mean that I follow as much of the verse as I can to prepare for marriage and motherhood, Lord willing? Would you say that the application of specifics, like keeping my home, would be dependent on how the Lord leads, which for me has been to purchase and maintain my own house as the best option to use my finances wisely? For me and the young women in my circles, the end result of "I'm a young woman looking to seek first the Kingdom and redeem the time, therefore I am going to..." has been varied for each one of us, but we can all look at where we are now, see how the Lord has faithfully led us, and see how the creativity and beauty of the Lord is displayed in each of our lives. My single friend's calling to live in her parents home and write young adult literature is very different than another single friend's calling to be a physician and minister to trafficked women and children across the globe, while both different from another single woman's calling to be the hands and feet of Christ to her community as a law enforcement officer. Thoughts?

- Kate

Jenny said...

Kate, who is your author friend who writes YA literature??