The apostle Paul knew the stereotype of the people of Crete. "Even one of their own prophets has said, 'Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons" (Titus 1:12). In fact, he agreed with the stereotype. "This testimony is true," he wrote (Titus 1:13).
However, Paul also knew the power of God's grace. He knew the message of Christ's life, death, and resurrection could transform the lives of Cretans who embraced it in faith.
Therefore the apostle had high expectations for the Christians of Crete. He expected "older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance" (Titus 2:2). He expected "older women to be reverent in the way they live, not be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good" (Titus 2:3). He expected "younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God" (Titus 2:4-5). He expected "young men to be self-controlled" (Titus 2:6). He even expected Cretan men to exhibit the qualities of godly elders who were prepared to pastor the young churches in an ungodly society (Titus 1:5-9). Talk about high and counter-cultural expectations!
I have a feeling that the apostle Paul would write similar words to America's inner city churches today. He would know the stereotypes. He would know that the people of the inner city have a reputation for laziness, irresponsibility, immoral sexual behavior, addictions, and violence. He would also recognize the truth in the stereotypes.
However, Paul would expect the grace of God to change the way inner city believers live. He would expect no less from America's urban poor than from the Cretans who placed their faith in Jesus Christ. He would have high counter-cultural expectations, because he knew the power of the gospel to transform lives.
"(The grace of God) teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good" (Titus 2:12-14).