“For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.’ This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth.” Titus 1:10–14
Always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons
Titus was in a tough spot trying to bring the gospel of Jesus to the Cretans. They were such a wicked people that Paul quotes a 6th century BC philosopher named Epimenides in verse 12 and calls his testimony true! To be a Cretan was to be equated with being lazy, greedy, violent, deceitful, and a liar. His basic premise at the beginning of this passage is false teachers and religions are not going to change that culture. The Cretans needed to be released from their bondage. They were enslaved to sinful lives, which produce a sinful culture. Only Jesus can change a sinful culture.
Good morals can’t change bad hearts
One of the big disappointments of Christianity in my lifetime has been the religious right. The concept of the religious right was that if we pass the right kind of laws and elect the right kind of Christians, then we could change our country. When I was a kid, they wanted to put the Ten Commandments on school walls and have more public prayer. From the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s there were more Christian based legislation reforms in our country than any other time in modern history. Yet we strayed further from God. I’m not saying good legislation doesn’t work, but it only goes so far.
Good works can’t change bad habits
The evangelical left followed on the heels of the Christian right. Their thought was if we do enough good works, the hearts of the people served would be changed. They wanted to get back to the roots of social justice through Christianity and press good works upon Americans. The heart of the country still didn’t change.
Changed hearts produce good morals and good works
The religious right and the religious left haven’t worked. Like the Cretans, the only hope we have for changed hearts is through preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. The old heart needs to be replaced with a new heart—one that’s redeemed and regenerated by Jesus. When people clearly hear the gospel and receive forgiveness through Christ, then their hearts are changed. Out of that changed heart comes a changed culture of good morals and good works.