If something is repeated multiple times in a short space, I think we can assume it is important to the one who is saying or writing it. It may turn out that it is not important to us, but that doesn’t mean it is not important to the writer or speaker. When I teach college classes I let the students know what I think is important (and will be on the test) by saying certain things over and over again.
For no particular reason, I recently sat down and read through the three chapters of the Apostle Paul’s letter to Titus. Their relationship was like a father and son and Paul was writing to encourage and instruct Titus in his ministry and teaching. As I read what Paul wrote, I noted for the first time in my reading of the letter that he told Titus to teach the same thing five times in 21 verses. Being astute as I am, I concluded it must be important.
Here are the references:
In Titus 1:8, concerning qualifications for elders: they must be self-controlled.
In Titus 2:2, he should teach older men: they are to be self-controlled.
In Titus 2:5, he should teach older women: they are to be self-controlled.
In Titus 2:6, he should encourage young men: to be self-controlled.
In Titus 2:12, the grace of God teaches all of us: to live self-controlled.
Would you agree that in Paul’s mind teaching, challenging, encouraging, and expecting Christians to be self-controlled is important? In Galatians 5:23 Paul lists self-control as part of the fruit of the Spirit in a believer’s life. The Greek words translated self-control are different in Galatians and Titus, but the meaning is basically the same.
What is self-control or what does it mean to be self-controlled? I think we all have a sense of what it means to have and express this quality. Both patience and gentleness are certainly related to it. Alternative translations of the Titus references include live wisely, be sensible, and be sober-minded. I don’t think it means we cannot be intense or passionate; it relates to how we handle, express, and live out our intensity and passion.
I’m willing to admit (would confess be a better word?) that at the age of 65, after being a Christian so long, and after all the years I’ve had the privilege of being a pastor, self-control is a quality I need to give attention. And in giving it some thought, I’m most convicted about my eating habits and my short fuse or easily being irritated.
To be self-controlled is important. The lack of self-control can be ugly, dangerous, and destructive in so many ways. Having self-control, however, is healthy, helpful, and attractive. Going back to Galatians 5:22 and 23 and the fruit of the Spirit, let me suggest that we ask the Holy Spirit to help us and that we cooperate with Him to cultivate this important quality. What do you think?
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