As you get a bit older, you start seeing the sense in not messing about with matches.
It’s not that you can’t, it’s more like you shouldn’t. I find myself thumbing through the Bible for some down-to-earth advice and it turns out, there are some pretty clear pointers for living well.
They aren’t exactly rules, but they’re for our own good, just like steering clear of match-play. It’s like what Paul says to Titus: ‘Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.’ It’s solid advice, but what does it mean?
We often find ourselves presented with quite a striking depiction of maturity—or, at the very least, an image of its ideal form. Having now stepped into my sixties (a milestone my mother jestingly doubted I’d reach, suggesting I would be fortunate to see sixteen, thus I embrace a feeling of achievement!), this passage presents a challenge to me. Like many of my contemporaries, we are not to blame; after all, none of us volunteered for old age.
Yet, here we stand, glancing over our shoulders, chuckling nervously to ourselves as we attempt to square the circle of our chronological age with our internal sense of youthfulness. Titus 2:2 gently coaxes us to picture not merely men who are long in the tooth but those abundant in virtue. This verse is for the blokes, especially for those who have been left unsupervised, playing with matches.
Paul is not asking much, but neither is he asking little. Life is a challenge, especially when you are left to your own devices. To be sober-minded is to wear wisdom like a well-fitted garment, to exercise moderation in all things—yes, even in our conviction to moderation itself, lest we become, well, difficult.
The difficulty in life sometimes can be to remember that word we were warned about at school, ‘ consequences’. Being sober minded can entail the challenge of embracing the reality of allowing (or rather insisting) that our thinking be changed, affected and directed by the renewing our our minds.
That sober mindedness speaks of not being intoxicated by the ways and thinking of the world. There is a bigger picture we need to be aware of, consequences that cannot be seen and influences that we have no idea about. Older men should often do better. Even if it means you are older than the 20 year old, but not as old as the 40 year old.
Dignity, it seems, is often mislaid somewhere between the somersaults of a gymnastics class and the peculiar gyrations of ‘dad dancing’. Being dignified though is not a summons to strut around in self-righteous plumage. Rather, it’s an appeal to develop a character of such weightiness that it garners respect effortlessly, without a single demand. Take Daniel, for instance; he didn’t let a den of lions cramp his style. His practice of prayer, in defiance of a royal edict, showcased not a reckless spirit but a serene strength rooted in an unshakeable trust in God (Daniel 6). His dignity was never about the sparkle of the crown but the unyielding consistency of his faith.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer is another example, he was a theologian who didn’t just preach from the safety of the pulpit but lived out his sermons on the dangerous streets under Nazi rule. He wasn’t shopping for dignity in the marketplace of moral choices; rather, it was the compelling offshoot of his staunch commitment to embody his faith, even when it led him to the gallows.
Both men demonstrate that true dignity is less about what one flaunts and more about the quiet echo of divine values in the daily humdrum. It’s not the loud bang of self-promotion but the resonant whisper of a slow-paced life aligned with the heartbeat of heaven.
Then there’s self-control, that crown jewel in the fruit bowl of the Spirit! It’s a character trait so divine that it could well have its own halo. And as we march on in years, it becomes less of a choice and more of a necessity, lest we start saying what we think a little too freely. As the youthful filters begin to dramatically and spectacularly fail, a certain audacious clarity emerges. We see the elephant in the room, and can’t help but introduce him to everyone else at the party!
Let’s not forget, with the vintage comes the wisdom—or at least it should. The bible tells us that the grey head is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life, and while the young may sprint with their emotions, we are called to a stately walk of wisdom, our words measured, our tempers cool, and our reactions seasoned with a pinch of grace – so that we can be the statesmen that the times and circumstances of life call for.
For those who have been around the block a few times and find that your inner monologue is increasingly becoming your outer dialogue, remember this: self-control is less about battening down the hatches and more about steering the ship with a steady hand. It’s an art form, and it can be mastered with humility and patience.
Faith, love, and steadfastness,
Regarding the virtues of faith, love, and steadfastness, we’re reminded that these should be as much a part of the believer’s kit as a good cup of tea is to an English afternoon, but they’re not the exclusive domain of the young Tiktokers; rather, they are expected and demanded, of the not-so-young blokes—the seasoned saints who’ve been around for aeons.
Let’s not mince words; this ideal can be as unsettling as a fox in the chicken den. It shines a rather ungentlemanly light on our foibles and fumbles, and personally, I find it shines a bit too brightly on my own missteps-especially my filters!
What’s to be done for the men whose faith is doing the hokey-cokey, whose love has grown tepid, whose steadfastness is about as reliable as a chocolate teapot? It’s rather embarrassing, this realisation that one has missed the mark, as though one has turned up for a cricket match having forgotten the bat, the only bat.
But, Paul’s not setting out a members-only club for the spiritually flexible and energetic; he’s cheering on the old men to put on their spiritual cricket whites and aim for a century.
Thankfully, it’s not about ticking boxes; it’s about growth, about chasing after these virtues like one might chase the last bus home on a rainy night. It’s about making our life a testament to Christ, and that is a bit of news worth embracing with a thankful heart.
Paul calls himself an old man in his letter to Philemon, and there’s no doubt about it that he proves to be an excellent example of all these characteristics. Here, the call to sobriety, dignity, and self-control is not a cudgel with which to beat yourself, instead it’s a signpost, pointing you to the One who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy.
It’s about old blokes like me, becoming, day by day, more like Christ, who embodies all these virtues perfectly, and in that lies our hope, our encouragement, and our joy.