Yesterday morning, I taught about Titus 2:3-5, the famous "Titus 2 Woman" passage.
I tried to be as prepared as I could be, listening to sermons by Alistair Begg and Ligon Duncan, as well as my own study time, which included William Mounce's commentary. These are issues I want to be clear about in my thinking as I move into this "older woman" phase of life.
Some things stood out to me as I studied and prayed and listened.
First, our conduct in the body of Christ is not a private matter. Throughout the entire book of Titus, it is clear that living a godly example and teaching through example is important. Not only was Titus to appoint elders in the city of Crete, he was to teach others and be example of good works (Titus 2:7-8). The older women were to benefit from doctrinal teaching so that their lives reflected certain things, found in 2:3-5. Their lives were also to be an example. We don't live in this world alone; when we're in the body of Christ, we are accountable to others, not just the Lord. I don't think this idea of authority lines and accountability is popular anymore. We all feel we have the "right" to do what we want as an expression of our "freedom" in Christ. I don't see that picture in Titus. I see a picture of accountability.
Another thing I saw was that the teaching that the older women were to do was not primarily the kind where one opens a book and provides instruction. Alistair Begg, in his sermon on the passage talked about not handing out a "three ring binder" of instruction for youger woman alone. He did not exclude that from the principle of teaching, but he emphasized that this was the kind of teaching that was done as women rubbed shoulders with younger women on a daily basis. It's the kind of teaching that grows out of a relationship with someone. It's the kind of teaching where an older woman may say, "Oh, your husband works long hours, and you feel like you're about ready to collapse? I lived through that; let me help you." As I read Bill Mounce's commentary on the passage, his thoughts were similar:
Context shows that this refers not to an official teaching position in the church (I Tim. 2:11-12) but rather to informal, one-on-one encouragement. It pictures the older women, those who were experienced in life, marriage, and child rearing, taking the younger women in the congregation under their care and helping them to adjust to their responsibilities.
While I think that formal teaching of the Word of God by women to women is a really valuable and needed work in the church, this informal teaching is just as valuable.
This teaching carries with it a few implications. First, it means we have to get to know younger women and younger women need to get to know older women. It means that we older women must be living an example that gives is credibility with younger women. We must build trust with people if we're going to be an example, and that means honestly caring about younger women and being interested in them. It means maybe sticking around home now and then and being available to them. One young woman I know confessed to me once that she hesitated to call older women because she said that often, they simply weren't available. By the same token, I have also confronted young women who think older women are horribly out of touch with child rearing and marriage, and will only seek the counsel of their peers, or books written by women with whom they have no personal connection. I would never discourage a young woman from reading good books, but there is a place for face to face relationships with people whom we have an outside chance of getting to know well.
It also means being honest about our own struggles. We don't want to put across the idea that we had it all together when we were younger, or that we're not still learning.
Last week, I had a young mother and her husband and daughters arrive at my house with a plate full of baking. I was so touched and blessed it. It made my night. I thought as they left that I should have been the one dropping baking off at her house. I have far more free time for such things. It was a good reminder to me that the ordinary, day to day encouragements mean a great deal.