Titus 3.1-8, 13-14
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was ill and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Mathew 25.36-36
During the 19th Century many of the great social reformers were inspired by their Christian faith and a clear perception that should Christ return they wanted to be about his work. Such characters as Elizabeth Fry, Lord Shaftesbury, William Wilberforce and Thomas Barnardo. Modern Society has significantly changed, we have the welfare state, the NHS, a minimum wage and legislation to protect children and vulnerable adults. Is there then a place for distinctively Christian good works?
The Trussell Trust is an example of a contemporary Christian charity rooted in the person of Jesus and his teachings. They provide an example of what contemporary Christian good works can look like. Their passion comes from God’s passion for opposing injustice. They stand in solidarity with their clients placing their wellbeing as their highest priority. Their work is not only face to face service but it is also advocating for the poor and needy as well as holding to account those who are in power. They are creative and innovative in their approaches. Through carefully listening to their clients they seek to empower the powerless.
But if we grasp that our personal salvation does not come from good works we do, why should we be so devoted to good works? Paul explains that it’s source is the understanding of what Jesus has done for us. He reminds us of the transforming work God had done in the lives of believers. ‘For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slave to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.’ Titus 3.3 From this state Jesus took compassion on us, ‘But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his great mercy, by the washing and regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.’ Titus 3.4-5 It is the regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit that is the motivator and empowerer of good works. As heirs of Jesus Christ we fix our hope on eternal life through the grace of God. Titus 3.7 It was this motivation that drove on the 19th Century reformers and it is the same motivation for the Christian church today. As Paul puts it, ‘So those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.’ Titus 3.8
Good works are not limited to organisational activities, they are to permeate our personal lives and the needs of the fellowship. Paul urges Titus and the church in Crete to care for the Christian workers Zenas and Apollos, seeing they lack nothing. Titus 3.13 Good works are clearly the calling for all believers. Paul adds, ‘Let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.’ Titus 3.14
Have we asked the Holy Spirit to continue his regenerative work in our lives?
How do we stand alongside those in urgent need?
Can we be an advocate for justice?
Lord we long for you – (heal our nation)