One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Titus 1:12-13
Name-calling! Did you hear what I hear? You cannot mean a harbinger of Christmas, do you? The Book of Revelation begged the question, “Do you see what I see?” Paul’s letter to Titus begs the next one, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” That is the title of a lovely contemporary Christmas carol. In October l962 Noel Regney wrote the lyrics for it and Gloria Shayne Baker the music. It was at the height of the Cuban missile crisis and the threat of a nuclear showdown frightened many. How poignant then to absorb the words of the fourth stanza, “Said the king to the people everywhere, ‘Listen to what I say! Pray for peace, people, everywhere, listen to what I say! The Child, the Child sleeping in the night He will bring us goodness and light, He will bring us goodness and light.’”
The Apostle Paul, who bore Christ’s name and shared in His reproach, did fire off his verbal missiles toward the island of Crete. But he was no first century Archie Bunker who gunned his brain with beer for precise people-bashing. Paul had sharpened his by reading Plato and Aristotle. When he stood on Mars Hill in Athens and debated the intellectual elite, he proved himself a cross-culturally shrewd missionary (Acts 17:16-31). The philosophers in turn were quite familiar with the Cretan poet and prophet Epimenides, whom Paul quoted to Titus. He had distinguished himself in Athens centuries earlier. The sages and slaves of that city knew that to Cretanize was to lie. (Part 1 of 2)
Comment: November elections are on everybody’s mind and sadly, name-calling may be par for the course. I was tempted once to call a dinner guest a “nut” to his face. After hogging the conversation with his ideas of healthy food – in contrast to my delectable Quiche Lorraine – he went outside and came back reeking of cigarette smoke, much to his wife’s embarrassment. When our talk turned to a teaching on the parable of the persistent widow we had heard at a midweek Bible study, Christ’s application to our prayer life generated lively input. “And the Lord said…now shall not God bring about justice for His elect, who cry to Him day and night?” Guess who derailed the talk by insisting the passage should say “His elected”? I doubt that the Apostle Paul elected to discuss his beef with the corrupt Cretans at a ladies’ tea party. Still, he could have spun an entertaining yarn about the opinionated Epimenides and how the sophisticated Athenians embraced him as one of their own. Our imaginary ladies might have chuckled, but suddenly found themselves choking over the harsh punchline, “This testimony is true.” Paul, as we can see, was nearing the end of his often contested apostleship that was rife with “fears within and fights without.” After his lengthy house arrest in Rome, he made the most of his temporary release. He put Timothy in charge of the churches in Ephesus, and Titus over those in Crete. He was arrested in Troas and shortly afterward beheaded. A true shepherd after God’s own heart, he steered every conversation into the crucial direction where sinners of every stripe could call on the Name of God and become eternally free of censure and condemnation.