This was the codename given to a British officer attached to the Cretan resistance during the German occupation in the Second World War. He was portrayed by Dirk Bogarde in the film “Ill met by Moonlight”.
The German conquest of Greece and Crete was a very bloody affair and under the enemy occupation the kindness shown by the Cretans to Allied stragglers involved them in much suffering and to terrible reprisals. They fiercely resisted the Germans, hiding in the mountains and descending to attack them by surprise.
Even today Cretan men wear traditional, bushy mustaches and black shirts in memory of the losses and suffering endured at that time.
Like all peoples the Cretan have their strengths and weaknesses.
Nearly two thousand years before, the Apostle Paul ,having left Titus to shepherd the church on Crete, quotes one of their own “prophets” describing the nature of the people he had deal with.
“One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”” Titus 1:12 (I bet this made him popular)
Titus was to carry on the work that Paul himself had begun and make up what was still lacking in the church organization by appointing local leaders.
The Apostle had no misapprehensions about the difficulties in Christian work among such people.
Titus would have to exhibit great firmness in teaching and correcting the Cretan Christians: Also he had to be, by his blameless life, hospitableness and self control, a living example to the believers.
To deal with those who would contradict him he had to be sound in the Word of God and able to silence the adversaries of the Gospel.
The great danger among these (and many other) churches was for people to profess a knowledge and belief in God but by their daily living deny what they profess, thus discrediting the Christian faith.
Each age group and class in this society was to be exhorted by Titus to refrain from the sinful traits; they were by nature and tradition prone to. The need for Titus himself and for the believers in general to be sober and sober minded is driven home by Paul time and again.
Titus had been delegated authority by Christ through the Apostle and he was to use it to exhort and rebuke. All of this was in the knowledge, that all of us by nature are self willed, foolish and disobedient, lustful and hateful. Yet by the Grace of God and through His beloved Son we have found mercy, received washing in regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit’s power in our lives, we can overcome the sinful thoughts, behaviors and life styles which only lead to destruction.
I think we must all take on board and apply what Paul teaches here in the letter to Titus as a part of the Word of God for us today.
“The history of the church seems to indicate to us two positions as true, with reference to this matter,—viz. 1st, That assurance of salvation has been enjoyed more fully and more generally by men who were called to difficult and arduous labours in the cause of Christ, than by ordinary believers in general; and 2dly, That this assurance, as enjoyed by such persons, has been frequently traceable to special circumstances connected with the manner of their conversion as its immediate or proximate cause. So it certainly was with the Reformers.”
― William Cunningham,
Precepts and Principles!
There is now and always was a controversy raging in the Church about whether or how much Christians are bound to observe the Old Testament law. Some have even gone as far to say that the Sermon on the Mount and the “Lord’s Prayer” do not belong to Christians of this age at all because they have elements of law about them, so they belong to a future age.
Today the discussion focuses on such things as tithing, observing Sunday as a day of spiritual rest and questions of diet etc.
Many leaders and professing believers are pressing for discarding the law full stop and repeat that we are no longer under law but under grace like a Buddhist mantra.
While I do not have all the answers but rather many questions I would say this, the Bible is wholly God’s word: We need to be prepared to hear what He has to say in it.
While many of the commandments applied principally to the Jews under the old dispensation, there are many underlying truths that are universal to the people of God as well as rules for society to preserve human life, property and well being.
He is always the same and His will for His people remains the same under grace as well as under law;”Be holy as I am Holy”.
It is from His bountiful saving grace that sinful men, through faith in Christ and what He did on the cross are renewed by his Spirit and able to live holy and pure lives.
Many say today that because we as believers are clothed in the righteousness of Christ that when God looks at us he sees Christ and not our sin, therefore we do not have to worry about striving for holiness as He will work it out in us in time. Yet Paul tells us “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Philippians 2:12-13 this suggests the acting out of what God by his Spirit works in us by Holy living and thinking
Our Salvation is wholly and solely by grace through faith yet being clothed in the righteousness of Christ is never to be a cloak for our pursuing sinful practices and behaviours. As Paul clearly says that would make Christ a minister of sin.
Anyone closely looking at the Sermon on the Mount can see that to truly be like the person described requires a new birth and a new heart. Even the thought of sin does not escape Christ’s censure and brings with it guilt, as would the actual deed.
Were the average Christian of today, someone who exemplifies these behaviours and principles, what a witness to the Truth of Christ would be presented to the world?
Should we not aim to be pure in heart, as well as holy in all our living?
As to questions dealing with practical issues we must look at the spirit and intention of God’s commands
Are we obliged to give a tenth of our income to the work of God in the church as a tithe? We are constantly exhorted to give to the poor and to the support of God’s work. Surely this says we need to be regular and generous in our giving according to how God has blessed us financially.
Constantly are we pointed to the generosity of Christ in giving himself for us as well as the fact that all we have and all we are belongs to God in the first place, to stimulate us to generosity and selflessness in giving back to God.
Are we obliged to observe a day of spiritual rest, renewal and worship on the Lord’s Day? The tendency today is to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday in Church and at worship and then spend the rest of the day engaging in the same pastimes as everyone else i.e. Sport, entertainment and sightseeing. Why did God ordain a day of rest and call it Holy in the first place? What were His intentions in doing so? Have we outgrown the need for a day of “rest” in God’s presence? We must in good conscience answer for ourselves.
Someone might say should we still burn witches or stone adulterers? This decision in this day and age does not lie with us. However these Old Testament crimes and punishments drive home how much God hates sin. God will punish un-repentant sinners even if man condones and applauds them.
The spirit of the modern church tends to discount and ignore those parts of the Bible that run counter to its sensibilities which are imbibed by interaction with worldly thought and psychology.
All I would say is that we should be listening to what God has said in every age about sin, life and holiness but most of all listen to his Son.
“Our mind cannot find a comparison too large for expressing the superabundant mercy of the Lord toward his people.”