3:1-2 Remind them to be duly subject to those who are in power and authority, to obey each several command, to be ready for every work so long as it is good, to slander no one, not to be aggressive, to be kindly, to show all gentleness to all men.
Here is laid down the public duty of the Christian; and it is advice which was particularly relevant to the people of Crete. The Cretans were notoriously turbulent and quarrelsome and impatient of all authority. Polybius, the Greek historian, said of them that they were constantly involved in "insurrections, murders and internecine wars." This passage lays down six qualifications for the good citizen.
The good citizen is law-abiding. He recognizes that, unless the laws are kept, life becomes chaos. He gives a proper respect to those who are set in authority and carries out whatever command is given to him. Christianity does not insist that a man should cease to be an individual, but it does insist that he remember that he is also a member of a group. "Man," said Aristotle, "is a political animal." That means that a man best expresses his personality not in isolated individualism but within the framework of the group.
The good citizen is active in service. He is ready for every work, so long as it is good. The characteristic modern disease is boredom; and boredom is the direct result of selfishness. So long as a man lives on the principle of, "Why should I do it? Let someone else do it," he is bound to be bored. The interest of life lies in service.
The good citizen is careful in speech. He must slander no one. No man should say about other people what he would not like them to say about him. The good citizen will be as careful of the words he speaks as of the deeds he does.
The good citizen is tolerant. He is not aggressive. The Greek word is amachos ( Greek #269 ), which means not a fighter. This does not mean that the good citizen will not stand for the principles which he believes to be right, but that he will never be so opinionated as to believe that no other way than his own is right. He will allow to others the same right to have their convictions as he claims for himself to have his own.
The good citizen is kind. The word is epieikes ( Greek #1933 ), which describes the man who does not stand upon the letter of the law. Aristotle said of this word that it denotes "indulgent consideration of human infirmities" and the ability "to consider not only the letter of the law, but also the mind and intention of the legislator." The man who is epieikes ( Greek #1933 ) is ever ready to avoid the injustice which often lies in being strictly just.
The good citizen is gentle. The word is praus ( Greek #4239 ), which describes the man whose temper is always under complete control. He knows when to be angry and when not to be angry. He patiently bears wrongs done to himself but is ever chivalrously ready to spring to the help of others who are wronged.
Qualities like these are possible only for the man in whose heart Christ reigns supreme. The welfare of any community depends on the acceptance by the Christians within it of the duty of demonstrating to the world the nobility of Christian citizenship.