It’s Really Black And White


May 21, 2019 

Titus 1:16 – 2:3 (NLT)

Such people claim they know God, but they deny him by the way they live. They are detestable and disobedient, worthless for doing anything good. As for you, Titus, promote the kind of living that reflects wholesome teaching. Teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely. They must have sound faith and be filled with love and patience. Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers. Instead, they should teach others what is good.


In college I studied literature and history, which meant I was trained to automatically look for things others might not see. What’s the context, the world of the author, the language, the symbolism? What is the deeper meaning? 

But sometimes the words just mean exactly what they say. An English professor once told our class the story of meeting Earnest Hemingway’s wife at a conference. He went on and on with her about how her husband used this and that image to symbolize that and this idea, but she cut him off and said, “Earnie just wrote stories. All of you came up with all that other stuff.” 

In the story of Scripture, context is everything. Knowing who Paul was writing to and where, what the culture was like, and how the language was used help us better interpret and apply the Bible. But sometimes (okay a lot of the time) we get caught up looking for the deeper meaning (and full disclosure: we preacher and teacher types love to try to “find” or “see” something new to preach… it’s a problem). 

But sometimes there is no hidden symbolism. No deeper meaning. No figuring out what it means for us today. Sometimes the black and white print is really black and white teaching.

Exercise self-control. Have love. Be patient. Don’t slander. Don’t get drunk. Teach what is good. Pretty straight forward teaching from the first to the twenty-first century. 

So why do these things? For Titus, NT Wright sets the scene: “But what if there’s a town in the ancient Mediterranean world which has never seen Christians before? This is a new community, organizing itself in a new way, refusing to join in with normal public events like the sacrifices which celebrate the various gods and goddesses, including the special local ones. Its members no longer frequent the drunken orgies they once did. They are even rumored to refuse to take the oath of allegiance to the emperor… People will be watching.”


Jesus, it’s really black and white: Help me live a life that reflects you, so that when people watch me they they see how much you love the world. Amen.


What is your scene today, and who’s watching? 

For the awakening,
Omar Al-Rikabi


Omar Rikabi is a United Methodist Pastor serving in North Texas. When not telling stories, Omar likes to watch movies with his wife Jennifer, read books with his three daughters, and work in the kitchen cooking and grilling for family and friends. You follow him on Twitter @omarrikabi or visit his blog