In my observation, when a pastor preaches on Titus 2, this is what often happens (caution: hyperbole ahead):
Married guys, MAN UP and lead your families! No! Just shut up and do it!
Married ladies, you need to be mentoring younger married ladies and teaching them what you’ve learned. We love you, and we know it’s tough to be married to us horrible, horrible men. Don’t be discouraged even though we keep telling you that you have the hardest and most-critical-not-to-screw-up job in the world and that you’re basically 100% responsible for your both your husband’s fidelity and his self-esteem.
Single dudes, have some self control, and get married! And quit watching porn and playing video games! And get a job! And move out of your parents’ basement! And you suck! And there’s basically no hope for you! UGH SINGLE DUDES UGH.
Single ladies… uh… I dunno. Be patient I guess? Maybe? Yeah, I got nothin’.
At Sojourn we’re blessed to have pastors who handle God’s word… well, a lot better than that, and I could address the problems with each one of those paragraphs, but I’m only going to deal with the last one, because I think it’s the place where even the most well-intentioned, careful, Gospel-centered teaching can kind of go off the rails.
What do we do with single women in the church? In the case of Titus 2, I think what we often imply is that her calling is on hold until she gets married, and even then that her calling hasn’t reached its ultimate fulfillment until she starts having kids. Then, we seem to say, you’re really living out your calling, sister.
How do we make sense of the biblical teaching that seems to speak primarily to married women with children, when all around us — both in the Scriptures and in the Church — are unmarried, childless women?
I think the key is to begin to see the connection between calling and identity. Calling, in the Scriptures, is a function of identity — sometimes a current identity; more often what we might call a prophetic identity, a declaration of a new identity given by God to the person he’s calling. So when we see passages that call us to a certain set of actions or attitudes, I think it’s important to ask what identity is behind those actions.
For example, God calls all Christians to care for the poor and the alien. What identity is behind this? Ultimately, we are a people whom God has rescued from the ultimate poverty and alienation, and we paint a picture of the Gospel when we reach out to the poor and alien.
What about Titus 2? What is God telling all women about who we are (or are becoming by grace) through these instructions to married women with kids? I’ll address that in Part 2 tomorrow.