There are two kinds of families in this world: Dog families and cat families. Growing up, I was a member of a cat family. We always had at least two cats frolicking around the house, shedding fur and using our sofa as a scratching post. I love cats. They're low maintenance and, at least when they're in the mood, they can be quite affectionate.
I can remember one afternoon, I decided that I wanted to take our cat, named Neffy, for a walk. Interestingly enough, even though we never had any dogs, we did have a dog leash. So I called my brother and sister and announced, "Let's take Neffy for a walk!" And so, we placed the leash on her collar. Dogs, of course, gladly welcome the opportunity to be walked. They happily pant with anticipation and even jump up at their owner as a sign of eagerness. Our cat, however, dug her claws into ground and began rumbling with a low, disgruntled growl punctuated by an occasional hiss. And it was then that I learned the perils of walking a cat. For cats do not like to be led.
In our reading for today from Titus 1, the apostle Paul gives a pastor named Titus an assignment at the churches at Crete that is about as easy as walking a cat: "The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you" (verse 5). Apparently, things on the Mediterranean island are not going well. This is why Paul continues, "For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers... They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach - and that for the sake of dishonest gain" (verses 10-11). The Greek word for "rebellious" is anupataktos, a word meaning "submit" with an alpha privative. Thus, these are people who refuse to submit to Christian teaching and godly guidance. Like cats, they do not like to submit to leadership.
What is the solution to these cats of Crete, who refuse to be led? Paul answers, "Rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith" (verse 13). Even though it may be difficult and harrowing, Paul encourages Titus not to give up on these wayward ones. For he wants them to be led to soundness in faith.
Walking a cat is not easy. Neither is leading one who has wandered from the faith. But as hard as it might be, such leadership is certainly worthwhile. For God's desire is that more and more people "hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught" (verse 9).
As Christmas approaches, is there anyone whom you can lead with God's Word and gospel? Perhaps you can invite them to Christmas worship. Perhaps you can share with them the gospel. Even if they seem hostile to Christianity, take a chance on introducing them to the Christ child in the manger. For his birth, life, death, and resurrection is the very thing on which all of history - and even all of eternity - hangs. So take a Cretan cat for a walk. Yes, they may growl. But, then again, they may believe.