By Pastor Glenn Pease
Paul Aurandt tells of how even the disorders of life can sometimes be a blessing. Only hours after Pearl Harbor the Japanese went after the Philippine Islands. American and Philippine troops were taken by surprise and had to retreat to the Bataan Peninsula. These brave troops became famous for their delay of the Japanese. For 98 days they fought against the impossible odds before they surrendered. But this delay gave America the time it needed to organize the defense of Australia and other vital areas.
The paradox of it all is that it was all made possible by a mistake. General Mac Arthur's quartermaster ordered 18 thousand empty oil drums, but someone fouled up the order and sent them filled with gasoline. This was a million gallons of unwanted fuel sent to the Peninsula of Bataan. It was this fuel that made it possible for them to hold out for 98 days, and thereby change the course of history for freedom.
God is not limited to working only with order. He can bring light out of darkness and harmony out of discord. He can bring order out of chaos. This is, in fact, one of God's specialties, but there is no escaping the truth that God's preference is for order. You can't count on disorder. There is no disorder in God's being, nor is there any in His revealed description of the ideal destiny of the universe, or the eternal home of the redeemed. Perfect order and beauty with complete symmetry and harmony is what will be everlasting. Order means beauty, and order means health, happiness, holiness, and all that is good has a direct connection with order.
This becomes the ideal we are to work for in all that we do for the glory of God. This was Paul's purpose for the church in Crete, and this was the task of Titus to organize the church and bring order where there was chaos and discord. According to this letter all Christians have an obligation to get their lives in order. This would lead to order in the church, in the home, and in the state as well. It all begins with Titus who had a unique gift for organization. Some people just have it and others do not. Paul says in verse 5 that he left Titus in Crete for the purpose of straightening out what was left unfinished. Paul is saying that he left the work there incomplete. Even under the Apostle Paul a church did not spring quickly to a state of perfection. Paul left a lot of loose ends and he needed the help of a gifted man like Titus to complete the work.
The Cretans were a messed up people, but the Gospel is that any mess can be straightened out by the grace of God, and order can be brought out of chaos. That is why Paul did not give up on these who were, humanly speaking, hopeless people. He knew it was the sick who needed the physician, and the messed up who needed the organizer. It is superficial to think that because people are saved that the battle is over, and that there is nothing much left to do. The fact is, the biggest battle may come after conversion. People may gladly accept the Gospel as the good news, and rejoice in having a Savior, but the hard part is in getting their lives organized so as to conform to Christ.
Calvin said, "The building of the church is not a work so easy that it can be brought all at once to perfection." Even where Paul spent several years the work was not completed, so how much more so here in Crete? The goal however is to get to that point where order dominates the church. Paul had a great deal of optimism about the power of order to make Christian lives and churches the witness for Christ they were meant to be. Only once in this letter does Paul refer to the work of the Holy Spirit. In chapter 3 verse 5 he refers to the rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit. But all through the rest of this letter he dwells on the human responsibility to bring order into their lives and the church. This leads us to the first point about order that we want to focus on.
I. THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR ORDER.
This letter of Paul makes it clear that the church is a human organization, and men are responsible for working out the bugs and bringing it to a place where all is done decently and in order. The reason Paul left Titus in Crete was because without a human agent the job of straitening out what was unfinished would not get done. Maybe some told Paul to just pray about it, which we know he did. But Paul knew he had to have someone there through whom God would answer the prayer.
Very little to nothing gets done in the church without a human agent. God's primary tool is people. The Holy Spirit works through people. Christ the head of the church works through His body-the people. The church is God's bridge over the troubled waters of the world. Offering a way back to God through Jesus. God designed the church, and Jesus builds the church, but His crew is made of men and women. He started with the 12 and then chose Paul. They in turn chose men like Titus, who in turn appointed elders in all the churches. They in turn taught every believer how to establish order in the church, and make it an appealing bridge which would attract the world to cross over to Christ.
The point is, the primary responsibility for the orderly effectiveness of any church lies in the leadership and members of that church. It is human responsibility to develop the order that makes a church pleasing to God and attractive to the world. The bridges don't just happen, and neither do churches. They are planned, organized, and built by people who want to make a way over the troubled waters of life a reality. The church, like all else that is human, and which is for the benefit of humans, depends upon order for its success.
Blackie wrote, "In human doings and human productions, we see everywhere manifestations of order. Well-ordered stones make architecture; well-ordered social regulations make a constitution and a police; well-ordered ideas make good logic; well-ordered words make good writing; well-ordered imaginations and emotions make good poetry; well-ordered facts make science. Disorder, on the other hand, makes nothing at all, but unmakes everything. Stones and disorder produce ruins; and ill-ordered social condition is declined, revolution, or anarchy; ill-ordered ideas are absurdity; ill-ordered words are neither sense nor grammar; ill-ordered imaginations and emotions are madness; ill-ordered facts are chaos."
Because it is so, nobody has a greater responsibility than Christians to be people of order. Being Christ-like means to add order to everything of which we are a part. Christians are to admired because they add order, and in so doing add beauty and harmony to the church and the state, and every other group they belong to. God gives us illustrations, examples, and guides, but we are responsible for order in our own lives and in our own church.
When Paul says in I Cor. 14:40, "Let all things be done decently and in order," he was writing to a church that was promoting chaos and disorder. It was a church that was so permissive of individual liberty that everyone did that which was right in their own eyes. The gifts of the Spirit were used indiscriminately and haphazardly so as to make the worship service a mad house. It was a church where disorder reigned, and where division was dominant over unity. Paul makes it clear that it is the responsibility of Christians themselves to make order an idea they aim for, and then labor to maintain it in the church.
God did not do it for them, nor did He do it for the church in Crete. It was man's responsibility to add order to his life and church. Jouber said, "All are born to observe order, but few are born to establish it." Men like Paul and Titus have established patterns of order for the church. It is our responsibility to observe these patterns. This concept of every person being responsible for order has some very practical implications for the family as well as the church.
Dr. Frank Main in his book Perfect Parenting And Other Myths says that one of the major problems in families today is that children do not feel they add to the order of the household. In the old days when a child did not milk a cow the family went without milk. If he did not chop wood the family was cold. It really mattered if he did his chores and played his role. Today if a child fails to do his job it can be counteracted by a microwave, or going out for fast food. If a child does not feel his contribution really counts, he will not feel responsible, and this will lead to the loss of one of the key ingredients that will make him or her a force for order.
Every child in the home, and every child of God in the church, needs, for their own sake as well as the kingdom's sake, to recognize their personal responsibility for order. Failure here is the cause for the disorder of families, church, and state. If the world is a mess there is no one to blame but men, for men are responsible for order. We cannot straighten out the messes of the world, and neither could Paul or Titus, but they could bring order to their own lives and the church that they served. You and I can do it too, and doing it is God's will for each of us.
We do not want to be idolaters of order, and so we need to see that it is not always the first priority. Paul did not finish the job and so we can assume it took more time for Titus to get it all together. The first task in contact with the world is to rescue them from the river, and not to be busy building a bridge. If people are drowning in the river and you stand on shore discussing the pros and cons of where a bridge could be built, or what it should be made of, or what color it should be painted, you would be guilty of putting order before people, and this is not consistent with the priorities of Christ. Your first priority is to bet people out of the water. Save them first, and then teach and train them so they can become the bridge that brings others to Christ.
Order is the goal, but not necessarily your first priority. You may have to kick off your shoes, rip off your shirt, and participate in very disorderly rescue operations before you get organized, and this is obviously what happened in Crete. But now we have a body of rescued people, and the task now is to get them organized. Paul makes it clear there is a reason for order, and this is our second point.
II. THE REASON FOR ORDER.
There are many, but the primary reason for order is that which makes order universally valued, and that is that it is aesthetic. That means it is attractive. Order has beauty, and beauty appeals to people and attracts them like the flower attracts the bee, and the female attracts the male. Order power is beauty power. The drug store and the dump may have a lot of the same chemicals around, but you go to the drug store because all is in order, and it is appealing. It gives you a sense of security and assurance. That which is messy and disorderly does not entice you to its presence.
I cleaned out our medicine drawer a couple of weeks ago and I found all kinds of stuff outdated. When I threw all that away the draw looked so clean and orderly. I wondered why I tolerated the mess for so long. The reason is really quite simple. We get use to less than the best, and so we stop striving for the attractive ideal.
Harry Gale, a metallurgist in London, once offered to cure Big Ben of its stutter. The famous clock bell had a strange sound. The reason was a crack that showed up back in 1859 just two months after it went into the Tower of Parliament. Mr. Gale said he could mend the crack with a nickel alloy. His offer was refused, however, because the Minister of Works said the world has gotten use to the crack sound. We can get so use to the defective real that we lose interest in pursuing the perfected ideal. It is the task of leadership to prevent this and be constantly presenting the ideal which is appealing and attractive to all men.
The Christian obligation is not just to develop a life that he or she is content with, but one that has order and beauty that appeals to all people. All of the virtues that this letter deals with are virtues that are ideals of every religion and every culture. Christians who become what this letter urges them to become are Christians that will be beautiful people anywhere and anytime, and this order power will make them effective witnesses for Christ, who is the author of all order and beauty.
You don't even find atheists who complain about the order of the universe and the beauty of flowers. All people are positively impressed with order and beauty. So Paul says in this letter that an orderly Christian life is the key to impress the world. In 2:5 he says an orderly relationship of love in marriage and family will be so beautiful that the world will have n criticism of the Word of God. In 2:8 he says that sound logic and beauty, and just all around orderliness in teaching will make opponents ashamed to attack the Christian. If what a Christian teaches is open to the charge of being ugly and inconsistent with even pagan morality, then you can count on it that the world will rip it apart.
Paul says that Christian teaching is to be so beautiful and orderly that even the non-Christian world would be embarrassed to attack it. That is the power of order. It shuts the mouth of even that roaring lion that goes about seeking whom he may devour. Even Satan cannot attack universal beauty and get by with it. What mob has ever chanted, "Down with honesty, truth, beauty, and love?" Nobody can object to what is universally attractive. That is the reason the individual Christian, and the church as a whole, is obligated to be committed to the life of order. In a very literal way the Christian is called to be an artist, and his or her life is to be a work of art. The church is to be so ordered also as to be a work of art and a thing of beauty that is attractive to all intelligent minds.
"Order in the court," the judge demands, because where chaos reigns nothing good can result, and justice will not be served by disorder. All that is good, true, and beautiful depends upon order. Order in the church is the key to convincing the world that something beautiful has happened, and that it can happen to them as well. In chapter 3 Paul says that before Christ came into their lives they were foolish, disobedient, deceived, and enslaved by all kinds of passions. They lived in malice, envy, and hate. Their lives were a chaotic mess, but now in Christ they were to be so living that beauty and excellence characterized them, and their lives are profitable to everyone. That is a big order, and the only way to fill it is by the power of an orderly life. That is why Paul rejects all that is disorderly.
In 3:9-10 he says that foolish controversies have no place in the church, for they are unprofitable and useless. They add no beauty or benefit, and so they are enemies of order. The divisive person is also a detriment to order. They are not compatible with the goal of unity and the beauty of harmony. If such a person cannot be persuaded to conform to the goal of orderliness, they must be rejected, for the ideal of order in the body is more important than the satisfying of the idiosyncrasies of the individual. Here is the basis for excommunication of any member of the church who threatens the ideal of order.
This does not mean there is no place for disagreement, but it must be dealt with decently and in order, and not so as to be divisive. Many godly people have been tools of Satan because they did not follow the order laid down by Jesus in dealing with conflict and resentment. Live spelled backward is evil. The content of the two words is identical, but the meaning is radically different because of the order of the same 4 letter. Right and wrong are often determined by order. 123 is right, but 132 is wrong, and all that is different is the order. A number is never wrong in itself. All numbers are right and valid. The only way a number can be wrong is by being out of order. You can play all the right notes of a song and still make a mess of it if they are not played in the right order. Misspelled words often have all the right letters, but they are just out of the right order. Excellence, beauty and harmony in all areas of life depend upon order. The key to the good life is having all things in the proper order.
Zig Zigler tells of how he invested in a computer back in 1979. It was supposed to do everything he needed to get done for his business. But the programmer he hired made a mess of it and it would not do anything right. The man could foul us a two car parade. But when he hired a man who knew what he was doing the computer did all he expected it to do. Things have to be in order to work right and be the blessing they were meant to be. Get anything out of order and it will not be beautiful. Sex is a marvelous gift of God to bless human love, but get it out of order and use it to hurt and harm others, and use it contrary to the purpose of God, and this blessing becomes a burden and a pain. So it is with all of the good things of life.
In 2:11-12 Paul says, "The grace of God teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions and to life self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age." Is the world programming you to conform to its standards, or are you being programmed by the Word of God? Geese are programmed by God and that is why they fly in the order they do. There is not only aesthetic beauty in their flight, but intellectual beauty as you learn the value of that order. They geese fly in a V shape, and they regularly change leadership so a different goose is at the head of the V. Scientists have done tests in a wind tunnel and discovered that this allows them to fly 72% further than if they had no such pattern, but flew like a flock of sparrows where it is every bird for himself. By instinct they cooperate in this order which is beautiful and beneficial to all.
Paul's goal is to get the church devoted to doing what is good, for this makes the Christian life beautiful and profitable for all. The church does not reach its ideal until everybody is benefited. The problem is that we are not like geese. We are not programmed to operate so beautifully by instinct. We need to make choices to be taught, trained and disciplined until we function in order and harmony. We need to be convinced that order is vital to our lives.
Order can make the difference between life and death. Back in 1880 to 1882, when the French were building the Panama Canal, they also constructed several large hospitals. Patients were assigned to wards, not based on their disease, but their nationality, so all spoke the same language in that ward. That was thought to be a good plan for order. But the problem was that those with yellow fever and those with malaria were put together and three quarters of them died. If they had been kept separate the death rate could have been sharply reduced. Man has learned by his mistakes, and the whole idea of progress is simply man's discovery of better and wiser order. Order is life, and all that makes life more beautiful.
Many worthy businessmen, causes, and organizations have died because of neglect of the importance of order. Sometimes Christians think this is not necessary for us, for we are in the Lord's work. This is a cop out and a rejection of our first point-that man is responsible for the order of the church and state, and any other human organization. A contemporary writer on church organization writes, "Unfortunately, many discerning observers of Christian organizations are concluding that they are particularly afflicted with critical deficiencies in this very area. It may be that every reader will know of one-a friend or acquaintance-who has gone to work for a Christian organization only to be surprised, amazed, or permanently disillusioned by the treatment of people in the organization. As one who has served on several of their boards puts it, 'The paths of Christian organizations are strewn with the corpses of their friends.'"
There are endless applications to this truth about order. This is not a once for all commitment, but one we need to make constantly. We need to strive daily to so live that our lives will witness to the world to the beauty of order, and be a benefit to all of those in the body of Christ. All of us are responsible to add to this world more of the beauty of order.