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
On Mars Hill Paul spoke alluringly of God’s desire to make Himself known, having seen their altar “To an unknown god.” He perceptively quoted their poets who had put forward a claim of being the offspring of God. “In him we live and move and have our being,” they had written. Paul clinched his argument by adding, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man…”
Having been judged by that “man,” Paul pointed one finger at the Cretans, leaving three digits to point back at himself. He informed Titus of another sure saying, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hatred…and hating one another.” (Part 2 of 2)
Comment: What is the saving mantra of today’s public figure who finds himself or herself in hot water over a controversial statement? “I was quoted out of context.” Paul made sure we wouldn’t spin his rather startling self assessment in a more flattering direction. Writing to the Romans, he called himself “a wretched man” (7:24), but spelled out the saving context by stressing, “For we ourselves were once foolish…but when the goodness and lovingkindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life. The saying is sure…” (Titus 3:3-8). Paul made sure we understand that when God consecrates us for public ministry, we don’t have to keep airing our private “dirty laundry” to supply ammunition to those who oppose it. Moses and David had a rap sheet that included murder, but God stuck to His guns that made for life-changing explosions of blessings according to His holy purpose.
It seems to me that this is the most startling aspect to all this “calling a spade a spade” barrage aimed at the Cretans: Their own prophet – the tell-it-like-it-is Epimenides – had seared these incendiary “ethnic slurs” into the national psyche, but lacked the spiritual tools to heal the fallout. When the Gospel came to Crete, things began to look up for those who had been looked down upon to the point of cynical self-loathing, leading to “negative self-speak” on the communal level. What stirred the fire in Paul’s belly even more was the fact that Satan quickly launched a dangerous counter revolution through “insubordinate men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially the circumcision party.” Cretans needed Christ’s redemptive power as he and Titus had personally experienced it, and out of what we could call “holy jealousy,” Paul charged his friend, “Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, instead of giving heed to Jewish myths or to commands of men who reject the truth.” Titus 1-3