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After writing to Titus — his former travel and ministry partner (Galatians 2.1-3) — about his current task in the church, Paul begins to instruct his young charge on the conduct and character he is to insist upon in Crete (a place notorious for slack standards). Paul gets more specific on his command to Titus to teach what accords with sound doctrine (2.1) when he speaks specifically about the men under Titus’ charge:

“Older men are to be temperate, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in endurance.”
Titus 2.2

Titus was most likely younger than these older men, and it takes a great deal of humility, dignity and self-control to be pastored and led by someone younger in years than you. The fact that Paul needs to tell Titus how the older men ought to behave shows us that this kind of behaviour does not always come naturally with age. Neither is this gender specific:

“Older women likewise are to exhibit behaviour fitting for those who are holy, not slandering, not slaves to excessive drinking, but teaching what is good.”
Titus 2.3

There is often a misconception that once an older person stops work, they to move on to the next stage of their life and either become immersed in hobbies or just simply live out their days quietly and without much fuss. But, here, Titus is told to teach the Cretans the exact opposite: no, your older men and older women are to be examples in character and conduct. Do not let them slide off into the sunset and excuse any of their “personality quirks.” They must enter this phase of their lives and not “let go”. Rather, they ought to be the living embodiment of those who have years of experience to share, dispensers of tales about trials that have been overcome, and fonts of wise words that come from walking with the Lord for so long.

Being temperate, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in endurance are all great qualities that we want the older men in our lives to be displaying. Likewise for the older women and their list of aspirational attributes. But, why? Why is this so important? Let us keep reading:

“In this way they will train the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, fulfilling their duties at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the message of God may not be discredited.”
Titus 2.4-5

Why do we need people we can look to and mimic? God through Paul says that it is so that the message of God may not be discredited. Our witness to the world is so important that we are urged to have those in our lives who have been there, seen it, and done it to make sure we are not tarnishing it.

There are a few things that come from this passage, then. Perhaps it is the exhortation to have a multi-generational church family that genuinely interacts with one another on a personal level (we cannot learn from a generation that are not present, nor influence those not there). Maybe it is that both men and women have an equally important yet complementary role in discipleship. There are individual implications and there are church-wide connotations, but, more than that, mentorship (and the character it develops) is needed so that the message of God may not be discredited.

Without mentorship from those further along life’s path, we are making it up as we go along, hoping not to mess up the message of God to others by our conduct. Friends, we need not live like this. God wants more for you than to make it up as you go along.

If you are new to the faith, find someone who has been sound in [their] faith for longer than you and talk to them. Imitate them as they imitate Christ. Soak up every ounce of accumulated wisdom and every single lived experience of Jesus that they are willing to share. And, by the same token, if you are in your 40s, 50s, 60s, or even older, look around and see who you can come alongside and mentor. Actively find those in your church to whom you can exhibit behaviour fitting for those who are holy, see those around you to whom you can pass on some of your decades of experience. Help them to live a life worthy of the the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

May we all see and show, with words and ways, what it means to live a life in which the message of God may not be discredited.

For over a decade, James Travis and his wife Robyn have been in Bahrain where he serves as Pastor of Saar Fellowship ( Their two boys were born there, and they have family history in Bahrain dating back to the 1960s! James is Calvary Chapel University's first M.Div graduate. Reach out to James by visiting his website at