The gods were envisioned as the supreme authorities over different areas of life. Whenever you entered a god’s sphere, you would perform a sacrifice to acknowledge the god’s authority in the hopes that the god would not crush you for trespassing in her or his area of authority.
Mostly, you wanted to avoid attracting the god’s attention. Even getting the favor of a god was dangerous, since your divine patron inevitably had enemies who would make your life miserable for having the support of their rival.
And they did not expect the gods to provide them with any kind of afterlife worth mentioning. Your afterlife was almost certain to be dark, cold, and miserable.
That was the worldview of Crete in the first century, where Paul had left Titus to lead the newly founded Christian church. And it was in that cultural environment that Paul wrote:
[W]hen the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)
Think of what this must have meant to people who grew up with the Greek gods. Paul describes God in terms of goodness, loving kindness, mercy, grace, as having washed us of our guilt purely out of his love and grace, as having poured out the Holy Spirit on us richly, and as the one who has made us his own heirs and given us eternal life! This message must have been unimaginable to people used to the pettiness and vindictiveness of the Greek gods.
I can only imagine how amazing they must have found the Good News, and how much they must have appreciated it considering everything their culture said about the gods and the afterlife. Is it any wonder that they were willing to face martyrdom for the hope of the Gospel?
The question for us is, do we take grace for granted? Do we appreciate just how good the Good News really is? What price would we be willing to pay for the Gospel given how we feel about it?