By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved
Written June 7, 2009
In this passage, Paul is admonishing Titus how to teach in the church (2:15 – these things speak and exhort, and rebuke with all authority…). He says believers are to be subject to authorities, be ready for every good work (3:1); to speak evil of no man, be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness (3:2); and avoid contentions (3:9). He says believers are to avoid contention over spiritual truth and strivings about the law – which can certainly be understood to include pressure to measure up to some standard of behavior in order to be acceptable (3:9).
Then it says to reject a heretic after a second warning. What is a heretic? The Catholic Church defined this word and we still accept that definition today without question. The Catholic Church defined a heretic as a person who disagreed with officially accepted dogma of the Catholic Church. That would actually include all Protestants. But we translated that meaning of the word “heretic” to mean someone who rejects the basic tenets of Christian faith – roughly as outlined by the Apostles’ Creed.
However, the word “heretic” is a transliteration – making the Greek word into an English one without translating it. This is something that early Catholic translators did on a regular basis, and it sometimes resulted in an inaccurate or incomplete understanding of the original Word. The Word “heretic” is a transliteration of the Greek word “hairetikos” and as such, the original meaning of the word is not apparent. The word actually means someone who is divisive. And the context of the verse gives a fairly detailed description of the behavior of a person who is to be labeled a “heretic.”
We need to look at the whole of the Word and realize that the behavior of an abuser is all these things that the Word not only says believers are not to be (but a heretic is), but says that believers are to separate from.
An abuser is not subject to authority – certainly not to God’s because he not only defies God’s standards of godly behavior persistently, consistently, and violently, but he demands his family’s compliance with his actions which are against the Word.
An abuser may be ready for good works out in public where they will win him applause and recognition, but those good works are least in sight at home, where God has still called us to serve one another in love.
An abuser speaks evil of and to his family constantly.
An abuser is a brawler – a person who constantly picks fights, whether verbal or physical. An abuser is not gentle or meek toward his family.
An abuser is characterized by his contentious spirit.
And an abuser is constantly demanding his family conform to his ever-changing demands of performance in every area of life, insisting that a never-ending host of failures to comply are the reason for his contention and anger.
God calls this man, by implication of the context here, a heretic. Being a heretic does not have to be limited to questions of theology within the church setting. The same spirit of a heretic is contentious and in disagreement with the truth of the real knowledge of God (theology – as described in 3:4-7) and this contentious spirit is nowhere more evident than in his own home. He may be able to keep his contention under the radar at church, though I have observed that it is usually there – perpetual fault-finding of the people and beliefs of his church even while he appears to be in agreement with them in public. But his heart reveals the truth of a heretic.
And God says we are to reject a heretic after two warnings. “Reject” is fairly decisive – there’s no grey there. In case there is any question how clear God’s feelings about this are, here is some amplification from the dictionary.
- to refuse to have, take, recognize, etc.
- to refuse to grant (a request, demand, etc.)
- to refuse to accept (someone or something); rebuff
- to discard as useless or unsatisfactory
- to cast out or eject
- to cast out or off
Will the church dare to stand up to the truth of the Word? And does God’s Word not apply just as strongly, if not more so, to those closest to this individual, who are being directly and constantly wounded by his heretic spirit? We are told to reject a heretic, not remain silent before him or turn the other cheek. This applies to us within marriage! And it applies to the way the church handles a marital abuser.