April 24, 2017

Teaching What is Good

mentorsBut as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. (Titus 2:1-10 ESV)

At some point each of us fits the description of one of the persons mentioned in Titus 2. We are either needing instruction or giving instruction, and sometimes both at the same time. The prerequisite to fulfilling each of these roles in a righteous manner is an understanding of the law of God and having a humble spirit. Paul’s words presuppose that a covenant community is a necessity in the life of a believer. And, of course, it matters what doctrine holds this community together.

Today the word mentoring is thrown around quite a lot in both Christian and non-Christian circles.  It is important to be clear what makes for a godly mentoring relationship and what the goals are for deeming one as successful. First and foremost, there must be true fellowship.

Fellowship is only properly understood in terms of a common bond to Christ. Without this bond, it isn’t accurate to categorize all relationships among people as fellowship. If the unifying factor of our Savior (our “Fellow”) is missing, it is more correct to classify these sorts of relationships as associations. In our day, not all who profess belief in the King of kings have an allegiance and faithfulness to every word that proceeds out of His mouth (the law). That is why Christians often have less “fellowship” with folks they attend church with for years, but attend a conference miles away from their home and have almost “instant fellowship” with other attendees.

For a mentoring relationship (for that is what Titus 2 suggests) to be beneficial to both parties, each person must have an allegiance to the law-word of God and be attentive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Mentorship is a two-way street. In the same way that a homeschooling teacher benefits as much, if not more, from instructing her students, a mentor’s involvement with mentees enhances and deepens her own faith. And the comparison to teaching is not an idle one, as the older woman/younger woman relationship involves not only instruction, but care and concern. The words of Titus 2 are specific applications of other passages that instruct the Body of Christ to care for one another (Gal. 6:10; Matt. 25:31-46, etc), and caution must be taken by those who would place themselves in the role of teacher or counselor.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.  (James 1:19-25)

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. (James 3:1)

To be clear, these relationships are meant to encourage Biblical self-discipline and self-government on the part of the younger person in the relationship. Thus, those who would step up to the plate to act as mentors, must be grounded in God’s law-word, and outwardly demonstrate such by their fruits, so as to enhance the Body of Christ rather than undermine or corrupt it.

Initiating a Mentoring Relationship

As I’ve assumed the “older woman” role with women I’ve mentored, there were times that I was approached and asked formally to be a mentor. In other cases, the relationship was established by regular interactions where a woman would ask for my advice. At other times, I saw a need and inserted myself into a person’s life so as to test the waters to see if the woman was open to having a mentor.

I have established ground-rules in these relationships. First and foremost, I only want to deal with women who are serious about applying the faith to all aspects of their lives. I am not interested in dilettantes who merely want to hear themselves talk and use me as a sounding board to gripe about those they think are the source of their problem.

This is not to say that I avoid women who have serious issues in their lives. I relish the opportunity to assist, but only if I sense willingness on the part of the mentee to learn and apply what has been learned. Instead of attempting to “fix” the situation (a mistake I made early on), I use our times of conversation to listen and teach what the Word of God has to say about circumstances surrounding the problem(s). Sometimes rather than approach the issue head-on, I will have a woman read a particular article, essay, or book that will give her a context for her circumstance. Weeks or months may go by before we interact again. In the interim, I expect her to address some of the surface issues that we’ve talked about in order to eventually deal with the deeper ones.

There comes a point in the relationship when, in addition to being mentor and mentee, we establish a genuine friendship. It is a friendship that is mutually beneficial in that I often learn from her and put into perspective how many of my earlier choices and decisions as a young mother were ill-advised and at times self-serving. I am not shy in sharing my own shortcomings and how I was helped by those who mentored me.

Advice for Mentoring

Reading and digesting Rushdoony’s first volume of Institutes of Biblical Law1 is a must when it comes to being a Titus 2 Mentor. This allows the counselor to avoid bringing in personal biases and attitudes when hearing a woman explain her circumstances. The goal must always be to enable her to be more like Christ rather than more like me. The pride factor must be acknowledged. Who of us doesn’t want to be looked up to as an expert, full of wisdom? Learning to actively listen and ask appropriate questions, and patiently listening for the answers, is the method by which the mentor helps another discern sin-either by her or against her. Even though there are times and situations that may not have an obvious solution, helping another bear her burden and helping her see the Lord’s hand in a particular trial is a vital aspect of mentoring. The goal is to: Show myself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in my teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned (vv. 7-8).

Advice for Being Mentored

You should assess the spiritual maturity of the person you are considering as a potential mentor. You will be baring your soul to this person, often revealing personal issues and private concerns. Spend time observing her behavior, her speech, and the fruits of her efforts, such as how her children behave and how she interacts with her husband, etc. Take note of her commitment to Scripture and gain assurance that her modus operandi is to steer you toward God’s Word. Make sure that she will not indulge in “pity parties” with you.

Some Personal Examples

During my early years in the faith, I had some bad experiences with mentor-types and some exceptionally good experiences as well. There were those who wanted to remake me into their image. Those interactions were often stifling and my husband was adamant that I discontinue those relationships. On the other hand, when I was regularly interacting with someone of genuine wisdom, he was eager for me to spend time discussing problems I faced.

#1 Within the first year or so after my conversion I began a mentoring relationship with an older woman at an evangelical church. Having lost my mother while in high school, this was my first experience with someone much older than I taking a particular interest in me. It was awkward but nice. She didn’t shy away from the circumstances of my life prior to my coming to faith in Christ. I came to understand that my husband and I were of special interest to her because of some activities her son was involved with.

Immediately she put me on her program of daily devotions, her Bible study program, and Scripture memorization. Since her husband was not a church-goer, and her son had left the faith, her advice and guidance was much more about transforming me into the sort of persons they were not. Any time I failed to attend all church functions, and keep up with my “quiet time,” and doing my memorizing, I felt as though I was failing Christ. My husband could see that I was changing, but not in a way that was genuine to me. After some intense discussion between the two of us, he helped me realize that this woman was attempting to remake me in her image, rather than allow me to hear from the Holy Spirit.

#2 Years later, when my family became close with the Rushdoony family, Mrs. Rushdoony (Dorothy) assumed the role of my spiritual mother (mentor). At the time I had two children. It was a very organic process that blossomed as our friendship developed. In many ways, she became like a grandmother to my children. I knew this was a woman who would “tell it to me straight” and had as her concern that the law-word of God would be honored and applied in her life and mine.

Dorothy was not one to engage in “pity parties” or anything of the sort. I knew that I should come to her only after I had consulted the Scriptures and prayed about any adverse circumstance I found myself in. She never took sides-that is, other than the Lord’s side-and would help me work my way through whatever was troubling me. I still remember one of the most pointed conversations I ever had with her (or anyone else for that matter) as I bemoaned the fact that I was failing to get pregnant after my husband and I had determined to have another child. Her response: “What makes you think that you create eternal life?”

She correctly spotted that I was feeling sorry for myself and was eager to have someone sympathize with me. But she cared too much for me to let me off the hook so easily. You see, Dorothy had wanted to experience pregnancy all her life and had accepted the reality that it wasn’t God’s plan for her. Rather than bemoan her own situation, she was concerned to return me to the straight and narrow road of being content in whatever circumstance I found myself in.

What a delight it was when I called Dorothy early on the morning of June 2, 1992, to let her know that a baby girl named after her had been added to our family.

Out in the Open

Married women should not hide their involvement in a mentoring relationship from their husbands. The mentoring relationship is meant to be compatible with a woman’s marriage since the duty of a Titus 2 woman is: to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled (vv. 3-5).

That said, there are times when conflicts within a marriage can make it difficult for a woman seeking help to announce to her husband she is seeking counsel. It is here where the mentor must tread carefully, so as to not disrupt the order of the family while providing guidance to assist in repairing the breach. When at all possible, I attempt to use hospitality to develop a relationship between us and the couple. Just having a younger couple witness the interactions of those married  (in our case for almost four decades) and hear stories of how we’ve dealt with inevitable differences of opinion helps tremendously to open up fruitful communication between them.

In a like way, mentoring unmarried women is not designed to usurp parental responsibility. A mentor is not a secret relationship and is not meant to replace a person’s mother or father should they still be alive. This is important because many a family breach can be rectified with the help of a mentor. The command to honor one’s parents has more to do with the calling of mother than the personality of one’s mother and an “older woman” can often help a woman re-establish a good relationship with her mom.

Sowing and Reaping

After years of parenting, many of us acknowledge that if we were given the chance to do things differently with one or more of our children, we would. Often, one or more of our children stray from or abandon the faith of the family and this can be a source of continual grief. But, since God has called us to minister to the Body of Christ, there are other “sons and daughters” who can benefit from the lessons we have learned and we can make a valuable contribution in their lives. Along the way, God, in His mercy, may well have a mentor/friend come into the lives of our prodigal ones and help them by assisting and counseling them back to faithfulness: For here the saying holds true, “One sows and another reaps” (John 4:37).

In the end, Titus 2 is really a call to community, a community that builds each other up while dealing with the real dynamics which occur when not fully sanctified people interact with each other. It is a good reminder that interactions among brothers and sisters in the faith are to reflect that they share the same Father and that the sacrifice of His Son (our Brother) unites us even when personality clashes and differences of opinion occur between us. This perspective directs us to “act like family”-a godly family-with each other. And, the reason is given to us:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. (Titus 2:11-15)

 

 

1. While not every woman who seeks counsel from me ends up reading and digesting vol. 1 of Rushdoony’s Institutes, those who do experience a richer understanding of God’s Word and are better able to assume the role of a Titus 2 mentor in the future. For those who find the sheer size of the book intimidating, I encourage them to take it a section at a time, while making use of the research portion of the Chalcedon website (chalcedon.edu/research/) and listen to corresponding lectures for each section.

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