Knowing Not Feeling- Titus 3:3-4
In many “modern” churches, the focus of the service is upon feeling rather than thinking. These events are designed primarily to make people feel something rather than to help people know something. Most of us have experienced this type of service, which begins with a “worship band”, which plays and sings a couple of upbeat “pep” songs, designed to set the mood for what is to follow, to get people excited to be there. This is then followed by some introductory comments by the “worship leader”, who generally begins by gauging the mood of the crowd, often asking those present, “So, how do you all feel this morning”? Is this the right question? Is this even a biblical question? Is the focus of our gatherings to be on how people feel, focused primarily on the emotions and designed to make people feel better, or is it to be focused on what people know, on helping them to know something? For our answer, we will turn to Titus 3:3-4, which reads in NIV as follows: “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of our God and Savior appeared, he saved us not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy”. We begin by examining whom this is addressed to, and we must conclude that it is addressed to believers, since Paul uses the pronoun “we” here. This term includes Paul, and must refer to believers and what they used to be before they were saved. And what they were as unbelievers was “foolish”, which is the key word to focus upon in understanding why this passage is relevant to our subject. The Greek word translated foolish here is anoetos, literally “without thinking”. Does this mean unbelievers do not think? Obviously not, but what its usage here does refer to is the tendency for the focus to be placed on feeling rather than thinking, on the emotions rather than the mind. Thinking was not the top priority, feeling was, and according to Paul, this is not a good thing. This tendency to focus on feeling rather than thinking manifests itself in three ways, here as being “disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions”. The Greek word “disobedient” here is apeithes, one who will not be persuaded. This word very much describes much of our present culture, in which many respond emotionally to things and will not listen to or be persuaded by rational arguments, who will be offended by those who disagree with them, injured by the words of others, seeking safe spaces and trigger warnings, running on feeling not thinking. The Greek word deceived here is planao, literally “to stray”. Here it is used in the sense of the be “led astray”, led astray from rational thinking and into the realm of emotion, astray from thinking into feeling. Enslaved is douleuo, to become a slave to another, and the slave masters are listed next, here as passions and pleasures. The Greek word “passions” here is one which refers primarily to the emotions, and is generally opposed to noetos, or thinking. It refers one who primarily feels as opposed to one who primarily thinks, one who operates primarily according to feeling rather than thinking. Pleasures here is hedone in the Greek, one who lives primarily for pleasure, who avoids unpleasant activities or thoughts, who does what feels good rather than what is good. All of this leads to living in malice and envy, “hating one another”. The Greek word hating here is stygmatizo, from which we get the English word stigmatize. To stigmatize someone is to respond to them by judging them based on an emotional reaction rather than on a rational assessment of their character, which also very much describes the current climate of our culture. All of the preceding describes how believers used to be, and Paul tells us here that we are not to be this way anymore. This focus on emotion over thought, on feeling over thinking, is not to be a reality in the life of the believer anymore. This brings us back to our initial point, and the question asked at the beginning. A church which focuses primarily on feeling rather than knowing is not operating according to New Testament principles, and a church which does so will focus primarily on knowing rather than feeling, on the mind rather than the emotions. The goal in such a church is not that people would feel something, but that they would know something, not that they would feel better about themselves, but would know Jesus Christ better. This shifts the focus from the believer to Christ, and the songs sung are no longer pep songs intended to make us feel something, to make us feel better about ourselves, but Biblical hymns intended to help us know something, to know who Jesus is and what He has done for us, and stimulate the response of praise and worship which this knowledge will inevitably bring.