Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Salus Populi Suprema Lex - Soundness

"Great Directions" Taken by CMJimenez

Listen carefully, things are much worse than they look.
-- Peter Aceti

Tuesday night prayer meetings were quite the affair at Bible Truth Chapel in the early 90s. I remember sitting on the hard, short Sanctuary pews, hearing prayer requests being mentioned for about 5 minutes and then following it up with 30 solid minutes of prayer. After that we would have a 30 minute bible study/earnest discussion abut God’s Word. The evening ended with fellowship and we would go to our respective homes.

After a while, dinner was introduced to the evening’s events and with it the format changed somewhat. Due to the introduction of food, we relocated the meeting to the Fellowship hall where we sat around 4 rectangular tables, set up as a square. The men would congregate around these tables, some with their wives while the children sat in an external ring of chairs--blue metal folding chairs with gray padding. We still had prayer requests that were not logged on any type of board, prayer first then a time of bible study/intense discussion and then more fellowship. But what was seared in my memory revolves around those blue chairs.

The seats around the inner rectangle of tables were always taken up, much like court-side seats, they were the best ones in the house. You had a place to rest your Bible, a pad and pen, and even a cup of water. If you came late, you had to sit in the external ring, where it was awkward to listen and to give input.

I remember sitting in that outer ring, piously hanging my head in prayer and peering over my fingertips whenever I heard the front door chunk-creek open and slam shut. I was sure to know who was coming in late.

One time, an elder came in late, and the meeting was packed. There were no more blue chairs for him to sit in. There was one special chair in the bunch, the one I chose to sit in. This chair looked very comfortable, but it was not sturdy. As soon as one sat in this chair, the joint on one side would give out, causing the whole thing to twist and send the sitter to the carpet. I had chosen this chair because I figured out how to sit with rather than on the chair, and I enjoyed the challenge of keeping my balance while praying and watching people come late. What can I say, I am a strange person.

After a moment of awkward standing, the elder looked my way and I offered him my seat. I knew full well what would happen. I suppose my youthful mind figured it may be comical. However, when we crossed paths and he thanked me for meekly offering up my seat, I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I knew a disaster was about to ensue.

Sure enough, after placing the weight of the seat of his pants squarely on the seat of the chair, the chair gave way with a crack and sent him to the floor in a blushing bundle. Needless to say, I felt remorse for playing that dirty trick--during prayer meeting no less! I felt enough remorse to help him up and get him a better chair. But I did not feel enough remorse to confess to him what I had done.

Ever since that day, I have considered the chair illustration with great suspicion. You know the illustration, Believing on the Lord Jesus is as easy as sitting on a chair, just do it and it will hold you up. Is believing on the Lord Jesus like sitting in a chair? Is there a possibility that the chair will give way? I always check my chairs before sitting; it is not a theoretical exercise, it is born out of practical experience. I have experienced chairs that are not sound.

Titus has quite a lot to say about soundness. Our translations will list the word four times in the three chapters written to Titus. However, our translations are incomplete. When looking at words that are related to the idea of being sound, we will have to record ten of these instances. When those ten instances are spread over three short chapters, one gets the impression that this is an issue of grave importance to the apostle Paul.

In criminology, crimes are defined as infractions under one of two categories: Mala en se and Mala prohibita. Crimes that are mala in se are those which have some moral stigma attached to them, like murder. It is socially unacceptable to kill another human being, people tend to frown on that type of behavior. Crimes that are listed as mala prohibita are those which are only wrong because the governing powers have declared it so. Traffic tickets are a good example of crimes that are mala prohibita. If the posted speed limit is 65 miles per hour, you should not reach speeds that are over that number. There is no moral stigma to driving faster than 65 miles per hour, it is simply the limit that the Department of Traffic has assigned to a particular stretch of pavement. However, a final clause in the mala prohibita definition states that this law has been put in place because breaking it would constitute poor judgement. Therefore, it is sound judgement to follow the speed limit because of road hazards, curves ahead, inclement weather, bridges and so on. The lawgivers have decided that is in the best interest of everyone involved to drive at the speed limit in order to prevent tragic accidents from occurring.

It would make sense that Paul would urge Titus to use sound judgement and to urge that the congregations at Crete follow suit. Titus is an experienced administrator who is trying to help the believers on the island to live a life that is pleasing to God and to establish the Churches in the area. While the Bible gives us a lot of information regarding right and wrong behaviors, it does not describe every situation we may find ourselves in. The scriptures also give a lot of lenience when it comes to certain areas, lest our Christian liberty be encroached upon. However, sound discretion is always recommended. That is why it is left up to administrators to lead a godly life as an example for others to follow suit. The single greatest textual example of this in this epistle is in Chapter 2 and verses 1-8.


But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine:  that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.

Here, Paul uses words related to soundness five times. Two of which are translated into our word sound. The rest are translated into terms for sobriety and discretion. Note that to be sound, or to be in good health, is an instruction for all members of the congregation to participate in. Notice also that there is a trickle down effect in play here. The older are to teach the younger how to behave. This also tells us that we are not born with sound judgement. It is a trait that must be learned. Further, it is not something that comes merely with age as a right, it is something that is cultivated and cared for. Soundness never comes easy, it only comes through hard work.

For the most part, chairs are sound instruments. They are crafted with four legs to evenly distribute weight. The hinges on a folding chair are usually of a caliber which can handle the weight of a man. The seat is affixed to a structure with bolts. Everything about a chair screams out fidelity. But the chair had to be designed and constructed. There is a sound builder that influenced the raw materials to become that chair. The same is true of the believer. God infuses fallen man with His ability to restore. We must take the tools He has provided us with to make us sound members of His body.

Further, as with my Wednesday night chair, sometimes chairs need an inspection. Sometimes the integrity of an old chair gets shaky. It is then that we must tighten some loose screws and bring renewal, else someone fall to the floor when trusting their words. Remember, just because the chair looks good, it does not mean it is sound; just as a believer who looks like they may be sound could in fact have some loose screws.

And what do we do when we realize that there may be something wrong in our lives? Look no further than Titus 3:4-6: 


But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

Here, the word we are focusing on is saved. The Greek definition of this word revolves around the idea of making whole or restoration. When we find that someone, like ourselves, is missing something, we should look to the Lord for restoration. He can make us sound in those areas where we lack most, like discernment, doctrine, faith, truth and purity.

Spiritually, the believer is already whole. He is already sound. There is no more that can be done to improve our standing before God because we have already achieved the highest standing possible. What we struggle with now is the manifestation of that spiritual soundness in our physical lives. Sometimes it is a matter of reading more scripture. Sometimes there is a genuine need for an older mentor to help us see the error in our current ways. But, sadly, the issue is usually a matter of discipline. We know what sound judgement should look like, we just need to have the discipline to practice it. As an itinerant preacher said in our own meeting before, If you knew the Lord was coming back this week, what would you do differently? Then do it! That is truly the challenge that Paul gives to Titus and the Cretan believers, preach what is proper and practice what is preached. That is what it means to be a sound believer.

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Christopher M. Jimenez. Powered by Blogger.

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