For many years the Anglican Church has had debates about whether or not women should hold the position of “bishop”. And the first lady bishop, Libby Lane, was consecrated in January 2015. However, whilst all these debates have been going on, one women’s ministry which seems to have been neglected, in churches generally, is the ministry of Titus 2:3-5 that of older sisters teaching younger sisters. Here is the instruction Paul gives to Titus: Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the Word of God. This ministry, of older sisters teaching younger sisters, is a key ministry and one that when ignored leads to a great lack in church life.
The first issue that some might raise concerning this ministry is that you are not that old yourself, so how can you instruct younger ones. However, you are most likely older than some other sister in the church, and so are able to some degree to exercise this ministry.
The first challenge from the quoted passage is for older sisters to conduct themselves in a certain way. Titus is to instruct these women to develop certain lifestyle traits. They are to be:
- Reverent in the way they live. Women in the church should be determining to conduct themselves in a way which reflects a dependence upon God. A Christian women should in the way she dresses, speaks and acts reflect a God-consciousness. In such a way there will be a display of knowing God in all her ways.
- Not slanderers. A godly woman is not always finding fault with others. She does not spread gossip. She speaks respectfully and is careful with her words.
- Not addicted to much drink. There seems to be a connection with slandering here. The more the wine then the looser the tongue and the greater the damage that can be done. Older women need to be careful with their alcohol consumption; if not they may cause untold harm through over-indulgence. And thereby it is perhaps best to abstain altogether.
- Teach what is good. There should be a desire to pass on what is good to others.
This final qualification leads us into the exhortations of vv4-5 where we see that the older woman is have a particular focus to her teaching that is with the younger women. The issues mentioned specifically focus on family life. This may lead many younger women to believe that this teaching is not for them. But some of the principles and issues are still relevant. Younger sisters need the older ladies to train them. Here is the detail of the training.
- Love of family. Godly younger women need to be reminded to be devoted to their husbands and children. In an age where commitment is seen as an old-fashioned virtue younger wives and mothers need the encouragement of their older sisters in the faith. To give yourself to care for your husband and children is generally unglamorous and unappreciated work, but it is so very important.
- Restraint. There is a tendency for younger women to attract attention by flaunting themselves before others. By this they seek to get honour and acceptance with their peers. Sadly this often means being involved in immoral activity The Christian woman is not to be like that. Rather she is to be self- controlled and pure. In speech and demeanour younger sisters are to show a restraint which reflects that they trust in Christ and not how “cool” they are to their friends.
- Home-makers. There is a “nesting instinct” which naturally surfaces when women are expecting children. This creatorial impulse is reinforced by Paul’s teaching that younger wives / mothers have a specific God-given responsibility to manage their homes well. They are to make sure that their husbands and children have safe and warm refuges from the rigours of this world. This does not exclude the woman from work or other activities outside the home. However, such activities should never be prioritised over the essential home making responsibilities. The importance of this cannot be over-emphasised in society today where many homes are in chaos due to women failing to fulfil their home-making responsibility. The consequence of this is seen in the harm to so many young lives simply because they do not find their homes to be a refuge from the rigours of life.
- Kindness. Husbands and children can sometimes be “hard-work”! Moreover, focusing your responsibilities at home can lead to loneliness. As a result bitterness can creep in. A great preventative of this is the cultivation of a mind-set which focuses on being kind. A godly woman should be encouraged and appreciated for all the kindness she does. It has been said that “most people are too busy to be kind”. Showing kindness inoculates us against bitterness.
- Honouring Husbands. Subjection to the authority of husbands is not easy and needs the help of God to achieve. Nevertheless, it is a godly gift to your husband, your family and wider society. When men are respected at home they flourish. And in their flourishing the whole of society benefits. One feature of society today, and that includes the church, is that men are confused about their role. This confusion starts when he is not respected at home. Subjection to husbands is not an optional activity; it is something which has big implications.
When we come to the summary statement after these exhortations we realise how important it is that this conduct is demonstrated in the lives of younger sisters in the church. When we read that these exhortations are to be given so that no one will malign the Word of God (v5b) then we realise that the quiet background ministry of sisters in the church has huge implications. When the attributes described above are not found the people are led to speak unfavourably of God’s Word. It is as if they say “if the Word of God does not affect a woman in private then it is useless for impacting anyone’s life”.
How important it is then that the older sisters get on with this vital ministry. If you see younger ones in the church start to befriend them. Get out of your “holy huddles”at church and reach out. There may be some younger women in church whose hearts are bleeding on account their difficulties. God might use you to reach into their situation.
(Taken and adapted from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of March 2012)