I’ve started reading through the book of Titus as part of my morning devotional time. This morning, as I read through Chapter 2, I was struck by how often Paul uses the word self-controlled. As he instructs Titus about the behavior that should be encouraged, he says both older and younger men should exercise self-control, and older women should teach self-control to younger women. Then he goes on to say all Christians should:
… live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ …”Titus 2:12-13
My Bible dictionary defines self-control as “the exercise of restraint and discipline over one’s behavior.” This was important at the time for a number of reasons: the early church was made up of both Gentiles and Jews, people with differing customs and traditions; it also existed in a hostile pagan environment. Christians were bound to come into conflict with one another, and with others. Yet, it was important that they make a witness worthy of their Savior. Why would anyone believe them, or want to join them, if they exhibited the same bad behavior as the culture around them? Guess what, this is still true today!
The thing is self-control usually involves waiting. If we react quickly to an insult, a slight, and unpleasant person, our response is usually sinful, because that is our default position. Our sinful nature tells us to strike back, to speak up, to defend ourselves. Self-control doesn’t mean being a door mat, but it does mean taking some time to respond in the correct way — with gentleness and respect. So if you’re confronted with a difficult situation, take a breath, pray and take this advice from James:
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20
For more about the book of self-control see these posts: