Titus 3:3-7

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:3-7

What is it about “before” and “after” pictures that we find so fascinating?

Whether about weight loss, plastic surgery, the newest fitness craze, This Old House, or presidential gray hair, we can’t seem to get enough of it. I can’t resist such pictures. Even though I know that the “before” pictures seldom present anything in its best light, and the “after” pictures do, they still get me.

Of course, they also go the other way. Think about the before/after scenes people print after hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, and floods.

What is the appeal of these images? Is it our cultish devotion to constant improvement, eternal progress? Is it some kind of pie-in-the-sky hopes pinned to “if they can do it, maybe I can too?”

I still remember the little side trip to the fundamentalist church of my middle school years. Youth retreats and Bible camp where people stood in the front and told us about how horrible their lives used to be, how they lost themselves in drugs, alcohol, and sex (and at that point they also lost me for a minute or two because that part of their lives always seemed more interesting to me) but then they FOUND Jesus and everything in their lives got SO much BETTER, PRAISE GOD!

(I always get just a little suspicious about people who suddenly find Jesus given that I have never for a moment ever considered the idea that Jesus might be lost…not to mention that scaring a group of kids with visions of hell if they don’t buy what you’re selling didn’t seem to be to be SO much BETTER to me.)

But, of course, that isn’t what they meant. And I never really got to see the person behind the story over the long haul.

Because what I would have seen is a person who can still be mighty foolish and disobedient, even after discovering the love of God in their lives. Slavish passion to various self destructive pursuits might not be rid off as easily as “once and for all and you’re good.” And love and hate might even remain rather liquid.

But none of that takes anything away from the goodness, loving-kindness, or mercy of God. Because that love is something we get whether or not we ever get it. That love is a given because that love is a gift.

As for improvement? I’m all for it. I want it. I’ve seen it. I still want it. I do want life to get better for people…but often, I’ve come to learn that “better” is really just a temporary experience of “different” and that the ultimate “better”, the one that lasts forever, still awaits us beyond the grave.

Let us pray: Thank you, loving and merciful God, that you have made known to us the depth and riches of your love in Jesus. Today we pray that your love flow freely and deeply into us, that it be a river that reshapes the landscape of our lives with hope, compassion, gratitude, and love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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One Response to “Titus 3:3-7”

  1. Sharon Longnecker Says:

    This is a gem of a passage and so is the devotion. Thank you for continuing to write. Each day your message feeds a whole bunch of us and we are grateful.
    Sharon Longnecker.

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