Pastor Scott Andrews | November 21, 2021
The cultural phenomenon had its beginning just over a month ago, October 2 at a NASCAR race in Talladega, Alabama. Brandon Brown, a 28-year-old driver had just won his first race and was being interviewed by an NBC sports reporter. The crowd began chanting in the background, as was being done in many sporting events across the country. The chant was an extreme, obscene vulgarity directed at President Joe Biden. The reporter heard the chant and apparently couldn’t make out the words, and suggested they were shouting, “Let’s Go Brandon.” And the cultural phenomenon was born.
You see, “Let’s Go Brandon” quickly became a euphemism for the vulgar appellation directed at our country’s President. It has been printed and hung at various public events. It has been flown on banners behind planes over political events. A Southwestern pilot signed off his PA announcement to his passengers with the now infamous words. A congressman finished his speech on the US House floor with a fist bump and the words, “Let’s Go Brandon.” Another congressman approached the podium to address his colleagues on the same US House floor with the words printed on his mask. Yet another congresswoman wore a dress at GOP event with the words of the slogan printed on the back.
A US senator from Texas, an outspoken Christian, posed with a sign bearing the words at the World Series. Former President Donald Trump’s PAC is selling a tee shirt with the American flag, and the chant, for $45. Several rap and country songs using the chant as song titles have made it to number one on Itunes. One such song on YouTube is by a conservative Christian rapper while holding an automatic rifle, wearing a MAGA hat and an Impeach Joe Biden tee shirt, all while singing Let’s Go Brandon. By the way, the YouTube video has over 600,000 views with 31,000 likes.
Anywhere the President goes in his motorcade, banners can be seen, chants can be heard. It is ubiquitous. With historically low approval ratings for both him and his vice president, people are upset with the President and his administration. Veteran GOP ad maker Jim Innocenzi has no qualms about the coded, crude vulgarity, calling it “hilarious.” He said, “Unless you are living in a cave, you know what it means. But it’s done with a little bit of class. And if you object and take it too seriously, go away.” One article I read said, “Now people who in many cases would never lob the [expletive] F-bomb in public have the supposedly perfect substitute – ‘Let’s Go, Brandon.’” And of course, the left is decrying the chant in disingenuous, hypocritical horror.
Then, just over a week ago, at John Hagee’s megachurch, Cornerstone Church, in San Antonio, Texas, the chant broke out. It was even orchestrated by those onstage. Oh, to be sure, it was not the church in the building at the time. The building had been rented by ReAwaken America, a political rally currently making its way across the country. True, John Hagee’s son, Pastor Matt Hagee, apologized for the event and the chant being held in sacred church space. But why would such a chant break out in a church building, among many who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ?
You say, well that’s easy, we don’t agree with many of President Biden’s policies. His vigorous support of abortion, his vaccine mandates, his handling of the economy, highest inflation in 30 years, his coddling of the socialist left, the Build Back Better bill with unbridled spending on the backs of the American people, his handling of the debacle in Afghanistan and the southern border – the list goes on and on. So, does that mean we, as followers of Jesus, can show such blatant, obscene disrespect of a governing leader, inconsistent with Scripture?
Or are we to be different? Allow me to quote from the aforementioned article by Steve Viars, pastor of Faith Church in Indiana:
“This (phenomenon) provides a fascinating opportunity, challenge, and question for followers of Jesus Christ. Is it appropriate for Christians to use this phrase in any sense or setting? The answer from Scripture is an unqualified ‘no.’ The fact that such a reminder would even have to be given to the people of God shows how far Christ’s church has fallen from our purpose and position of being visible representatives of our invisible God.”
Stunning. I agree with him. Consider these verses:
Jesus told His followers, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Let’s go Brandon is a poor substitute for light.
The Apostle Paul told the Philippians, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14-15).
Paul further told the Ephesians, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” (Ephesians 5:1-4) Perhaps giving of thanks this Thursday will be more appropriate for Christians than an obscene chant.
Viars says further in his article, “When the people of God are caught up using words and phrases that are wicked to their very core, we have shown that politics has become more important than purity. Whenever and wherever that occurs, judgment needs to begin at the household of God.”
That’s what the author of this revealing article says, which coincides with my own concerns about the way our patriotic nationalism has invaded the church of Jesus Christ. My brothers and sisters, we are citizens of another country with a Sovereign who expects us to be different. We must do better than this. Because, what does the Word of God say? Does it have anything to say about how we as believers respond to governing authorities? Or is such instruction abrogated in a democratic republic with free speech? Is Amendment 1 our rallying cry, our guiding principle, or are the verses I just read?
We are in a study of the book of Titus, a letter written by the Apostle Paul to his apostolic protégée, serving on the island of Crete. At this time, Crete was ruled by the Roman Empire and had been since 67 BC – almost a hundred years. And they hated the Roman yoke. The Cretens were notoriously insubordinate. The Roman historian Polybius tells us they were constantly involved in “insurrections, murders and internecine [destructive civil] wars,” and that is was almost “impossible to find…personal conduct more treacherous or public policy more unjust than in Crete.”
So Paul writes to tell Titus how to instruct these new churches – these new believers among the Cretens – who found themselves in such an environment. How were they to be different from those around them? How are we to be different than our increasingly immoral, ungodly, non-Christian culture? Let’s read the text, Titus 2:15 through 3:3.
That’s who we used to be, but no more. We are to be different. We didn’t used to be different – we used to fit right in. Paul will go on in the verses that follow to tell us how, while we once fit that awful description in verse 3, how or why we do no longer. We shouldn’t act like unbelievers, no matter how ubiquitous and loud the chants become. Sitting in a sports arena and the chant erupts around us – what do we do? Do we join right in, do we laugh along with the rest, or are we grieved by such foolish, disobedient, deceived, malicious, hateful speech?
Now, Paul’s typical pattern was to give doctrine followed by duty – he divides entire books that way: since this is true, this is how we should act. He reverses it here – he calls us to be different, even though we were once not different. Then, he tells us why we are no longer who we once were. So, we get how we are to act this week, before we get to why in the weeks to come. Here’s the outline of the text:
- How Titus Teaches (2:15) Which incidentally has application to current faithful, spiritual leaders. This actually acts as a transition verse to the next chapter.
- How Christians Act (3:1-2) – toward governing authorities and toward our neighbors.
- How non-Christians Act (3:3) In fact, how we once acted. But something happened – verses 4 and following.
In chapter 2, you’ll remember Paul addressed various groups of people within the church – this how we are to treat one another in the church. Older men, younger men, older women, younger women, slaves, masters. And notice, throughout those instructions, Paul kept insisting that by our actions toward one another, our behaviors would adorn the doctrine of God. It would actually make the gospel attractive. It was to be a witness to outsiders – those looking in:
2:1 – But as for you (Titus, in contrast to the false teachers) speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.
In verses 1-4, older men and older women are to be dignified, reverent in their behavior. Respectable.
2:5 – as younger women are discipled by older women, they behave in such a way that “the word of God will not be dishonored.”
2:7-8 – younger men are to show themselves “to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.”
2:9-10 – slaves were “to be subject to their masters in everything, to be well pleasing, showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.”
Do you see – over and over, our behavior is to be different, making Christianity and the Gospel attractive. Then he followed that with doctrine – for the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation, instructing us to live sensibly, righteously, godly in this present age – what Paul calls a present evil age. We are to be different – lights on a hill. Salt and light.
So, verse 15, these things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority, Titus. Let no one disregard you. All that he has said, and will go on to say in chapter 3, these things speak. And by speaking these things, you will exhort – you will encourage the people to behave in these ways. You will also reprove when they don’t behave in these ways – when we allow the sinful culture to start infiltrating the church rather than the church infiltrating and impacting the culture.
But notice, speak these things with all authority. You see, Titus was, like Timothy, likely young. But what you are speaking, you are speaking with my authority – more, you are speaking with God’s authority, because that which is written to you is under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – by the authority of God Himself. So don’t let anyone disregard you.
This verse has significant implications – not only for young teachers and pastors – but for anyone who teaches and preaches the Word of God. It is not their authority, it is not their teaching. They are teaching the very truths of God Himself. This is so important. If pastors and teachers are faithfully teaching the truths of God’s Word, we are bound to listen and obey – because they are speaking by God’s authority. They are not to be disregarded.
It is amazing today how many people see themselves as their own authorities – as judges of truth, as judges of the Christian faith, as judges of the Word of God. I want to say gently but firmly, as followers of Jesus, we are bound by the authority of God’s Word. We are not at liberty to accept what we want to accept, and reject what we want to reject. Not as followers of Jesus – we are under authority. So inasmuch as I, or others, teach the Scripture faithfully – and I say faithfully because no teacher is inerrant – but inasmuch as the Scripture is rightly taught – we are bound to obey. Whether we like it or not. The only reason Titus, or other faithful teachers, speak with all authority is because they do so on the foundation of the Word. They cannot be disregarded – even if we don’t like it.
Having set that up – pointing back to what Paul taught is chapter 2 – it launches us into chapter 3. This is how Christians should act or behave. Now, in chapter two, Paul was talking about how Christians act within the Christian family. Now, he turns his attention to how we should act in the world.
In verse 1, he talks about how we respond to governing authorities, then in verse 2, how we respond to everyone in general. Regarding governing authorities, “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed.”
Notice he says, remind them – meaning, they’d already heard this before. Which is interesting – Paul and Titus had recently evangelized the island, planting churches in many cities. He left, leaving Titus in charge to set things in order in those newly-planted churches. But apparently, even in their infancy, Paul had taught them about being subject to governing authorities. Which tells me a couple things. First, this is basic Christianity 101. Being subject to authority over us – in this case, governing authority – is what Christians do. The second thing I would note is we need to be reminded of this. We’ve heard this before, haven’t we? Over and over. And yet, we need to be reminded. And in our culture today, when there is such political division, we need to be reminded. Consider verses we’ve seen through the years, even recently:
When asked about taxes, Jesus Himself said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” Matthew 22:21
Paul said to the Roman church, right in the shadow of the Roman Emperor, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” (Romans 13:1)
Peter said, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors sent by him…. (I Peter 2:13)
In fact, Paul said in I Timothy 2:1ff, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
I would ask us, do we spend as much time on our feet decrying the present administration, chanting vulgar slogans, as we do on our knees praying for their salvation? We are to pray for them so that we can lead quiet lives, for the purpose of the gospel. It’s why we’re here.
I’ve been roundly criticized for having Vice President Mike Pence at our church a year ago this month, as if it was a political stunt. I would do it again tomorrow. To be clear, if President Joe Biden or Vice President Kamala Harris wanted to come to church here, they would be welcomed and appropriately honored. They would hear the gospel, and I would pray they would respond to the gospel – because God desires all to be saved. Listen, we don’t have to agree with ungodly policies – but nor should we be ungodly in our actions toward them.
Back to our text, remind them to be subject to – to subject themselves is the tense of the Greek. It’s something we do – not that we are forced to do or something that is done to us. We subject ourselves, because it is the right and biblical thing to do. Now listen, I know there are exceptions to the command. Everyone always wants to go to the exceptions:
The Hebrew midwives who refused to put the male babies of Israel to death under Pharaoh’s orders.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who refused to bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden, idolatrous image.
Daniel who refused to not pray to God, to only pray to King Darius if he prayed.
To Peter and John who told the Sanhedrin – you can tell us not to preach about Jesus if you want – but know this – we will preach, for we must obey God rather than men.
We can talk about Corrie Ten Boom who hid Jews during the Holocaust. We can talk about martyrs all around the world through the centuries who refused to bow the knee to false gods, to emperors – who refused to deny Christ. We can talk about the Reformers who refused to recant their faith; who translated the Bible and faced imminent death. There are lots of reasons for civil disobedience. But we must make sure such disobedience is consistent with Scripture. If they tell to do something the Bible forbids, of to not do something the Bible commands, we simply disobey. This is biblical.
But now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s not focus on the exceptions. Paul in Romans 13, Peter in I Peter 2, and Paul in Titus 3 did not. We are subject to governing authorities – in case there is any confusion about that – we are obedient to them. Like Jesus said, we pay our taxes, faithfully, whether we like them or not. We obey traffic laws. We don’t break the law – Christians ought to be the most faithful, law-abiding citizens.
Further, not only do we obey, we are ready for every good deed. Not only do we not do what we’re not supposed to do, we do what we can do – we do good deeds, consistent with governing authorities. We look for ways to honor and respect governing authorities. We look for ways to do good under governing authorities. Meaning, Christians should be the most helpful, good people around. People the government can count on to do good. Christians should be good and model citizens. We should be on the forefront of caring for the sick and poor, caring for orphans and widows, promoting the common good and welfare of people. We should look for opportunities to bless people around us. In Galatians 6:10, Paul says, “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people…”
I can’t help but think of the current Afghan crisis. Tens of thousands of Afghan people – families – have fled to the US. They are being housed on military bases across the country. The government recognizes they need to get them off the bases – to suitable housing and appropriate communities where they can get jobs, schooling, medical care, etc. Where life can return to normal, as much as possible. And the church has stepped up. The government has actually looked to non-profit organizations – like the church – to help. And so, this church has stepped up. We are the first church working with Samaritan’s Purse which is working with other organizations to have churches and Christians sponsor Afghan families – to care for them in the name of Christ. These are Muslim families – and our hope is, by doing good deeds, we will see them introduced to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We put out the call – this was no small ask. Volunteers will give hours of their time and resources every week to care. Over 100 of you responded. I could not be more proud of our church. That’s being ready to do good deeds.
Which brings us to verse 2, and our conduct with the world in general. But I would point out, we are not leaving governing authorities behind. In verse 2, Paul gives two negative commands – two negative qualities for Christians to avoid – followed by two positive commands.
First, we are to malign no one. Remember, that includes governing authorities. Malign is the word from which we get our word blaspheme. It means to slander, to speak evil against, to blaspheme, to malign. As Christians, our speech is flavored with salt and light. We are gracious, we are good, we are godly. Paul said it this way in Colossians 3:8, “But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, slander and abusive speech from your mouth.” In Colossians 4:5-6, “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to every person.” In Ephesians 4:29, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouths, but only a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” One author suggested that Paul “is urging Christians to restrain from their natural inclination to say the worst about people.”
I think we get the point. Second, we are to be peaceable. That’s not really a good translation – that’s actually the opposite of what he tells us to not be. He literally says, don’t be combative, don’t be quarrelsome, fighting, arguing. So, the opposite would be to be peaceable. But the command, with not slandering, is to not be combative with your words. To not be fighting and quarreling. Because we are to be people of peace, reconciling people to God through our godly and righteous behaviors and words. We are to be a people pursuing peace. We are to be different.
Then he gives us two positive attributes to pursue. Be gentle. The word speaks of kindness, gentleness, tolerance – that is, the right definition of tolerance. We may disagree, but we are kind and gentle in our disagreements with unbelievers, showing gracious tolerance. These are not qualities our culture pursues. We use fighting words; we are defensive; attacking. Christians are to be kind and gentle – even meek and humble. Why? Because we know who we once were, as verse 3 tells us. Notice next, we also show all consideration or courtesy to all people. Notice the words all – all courtesy to all people. One author points out we can easily show some courtesy to some people, but the command is to show all courtesy to all people. Courtesy speaks of meekness – it’s the same word used in the beatitudes, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
One author said it this way:
“Attempting to fight fire with fire, [many Christians] have sought to counter anti-Christian ideas and programs using non-Christian tactics…declaring war on the prevailing non-Christian culture, especially the liberal media. They have become hostile to unbelievers, the very ones God has called them to love and reach with the gospel.”
Which is why Paul goes on to remind us in verse 3, “For we also were once” like them. I’ll save verse 3 – who we once were, for next time. But the reminder of who we once were is to motivate us to treat people who still are – with kindness and gentleness and courtesy, desiring them to come to a knowledge of the truth.
I’m out of time, but allow me to close with one more quote from the article I’ve referenced:
“Our nation is divided on an entire array of social, political, and cultural issues. To some degree this will always be true until the Prince of Peace takes His rightful place on the throne of David. Only then will swords be beaten into plowshares and lions will lie down with lambs.”
“However, the church should never needlessly sow seeds of discord and strife. We should be known as peacemakers and those who love people with whom we disagree. It’s called speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).”
He finishes the article with these words: “Let’s go, people of God. We can and must do far better than this.”