The Gift of Example

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.  Philippians 4:9.

 

We don’t usually see statements from a teacher in today’s atmosphere which points us to follow his example.  I know from my own experience it’s usually “do as I say not as I do” more often than not since most people don’t (not because they can’t) follow their own advice.  Yet Paul encourages them to learn from his example, even though he’s under house arrest and awaiting trial for treason.

Notice, however, that the promise of God’s peace rests on those who imitate their mentor.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s revealing that the assurance of God’s presence is promised to those who imitate their teacher as he imitates their common Master.  Paul isn’t telling them to do something he’s not willing to live out in front of them.

Right there the gauntlet is thrown down for every teacher, preacher or mature believer in Christ.  Most of us agree our lives become examples of how to live this walk, but what most of us practice is one thing in public and another in private.  Although there should be private conversations and activities, I don’t believe we ever should change how our character expresses itself.  If we tend to be kind in public, this should be the same personae we practice in private.  If we are moral champions in public, our private practice should reflect it.

Everyone agrees this should be the norm, in theory, but I don’t know very many people who actually live this way.  I’m constantly disappointed by those in authority showing in private something entirely different than what they teach.  I think it’s one of the reasons why I tend towards blending my public/private practices.  If I joke about something in private to just friends, I do my best not to pretend I don’t find it funny around other people who might be more conservative or liberal than I am.  To live what I don’t believe is acting for the approval of others and fake, which in the end a deliberate lie.  On the other hand, I might abstain from certain subjects or practices which offend or hurt someone else.  This is out of consideration for them not hiding my general lifestyle from them.  For example, I have a friend who is a recovering alcoholic and when she is invited to a party, I don’t drink around her so that she doesn’t feel alone.  This isn’t to say she believes I don’t drink generally, she knows I do, but out of consideration for her well being I abstain.

The Greek meaning for hypocrite is “actor,” a person who performs a written part in order to entertain, inform or impress the audience.  We have made the word mean “fake” whereas Jesus and the apostles meant it to mean someone who performs for the applause of men.  In other words, if hypocrite prays in public, he/she prays not to communicate with God but to impress those listening with their spirituality and depth.  If one such person does accepted spiritual practices, mores and outreach, they do so for the approval of their subculture in the specific body of Christ they attend.  This practice, Jesus condemned.  Every time He rebuked the Pharisees, Sadducees and teachers of the law He called them down for their dual personalities.

I’m not condemning being culturally astute or appropriate with the age group we’re with or the community in which we find ourselves.  That’s wisdom, but to pretend to be some ideal that traditional Christianity manufactured out of the cultural bias is foolish.

We are to celebrate everything God created as holy.  The perversions and twists of sin might taint His creation, but that doesn’t mean it is unholy or to be frowned upon.  Just because people are greedy, selfish, lustful and a host of other things doesn’t make money, sex, bathing or whatever else comes as natural products of our efforts to live, unholy.  Everything done within the context of the God’s parameters is holy.  Nothing He created is to be treated as sinful unless we step outside His design or boundaries for it.

Here is the prime reason why we need teachers, preachers, and mentors who live the ethic they espouse out in the open.  Are you a married leader in the church?  Celebrate your marriage, love, sexuality and relationship triumphs and struggles in full view of the body so that those who are new at this may have an example to follow for themselves.  If we act like we don’t struggle in our lives, how will those who face these struggles like we do ever find a clear path through them?  Again, if we don’t demonstrate by our practices what it means to live out the grace, mercy, transformation and light of God, then those who look up to us won’t know how to do so either.  If we practice hypocrisy (acting for the applause of the church traditions), then those who follow will believe this to be the norm for believers and either become adept at it or discouraged with it because their lives are in disarray.

Paul languished under house arrest, yet his example showed his walk with God thrived.  He grew tired of imprisonment, discouraged, frustrated and joyful all in the same letter.  He showed that he struggled at times and had to remind himself of God’s continued presence.  Everything he instructed the Philippians to do he had to learn by trial and error himself through the Spirit of God.  He lived out loud.

If we want to be effective for the kingdom of God, we must, must, must live out loud so that those who watch may understand His mercy, grace and the miraculous transformation which only comes when we practice humble submission to His will and presence.

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4 Responses to “The Gift of Example”

  1. tlc4women Says:

    So true. I admit I have a long way to go on this topic. Being a blended family in ministry we struggled big time! I was brutally honest about my struggles but many couldn’t take the image of who I was supposed to be as a pastor’s wife and who I was, a woman struggling to blend a family and make a marriage work. So for me the jury is out on how openly we should live our lives.

    Recently I was asked if as a Christian was it proper to listen to secular music. I said I did. I am mature enough to change the song if it doesn’t benefit me. I was then made the example of poor leadership by the pastor of that church. So living by example and living openly will come with a cost. Fortunately, I’m pretty thick-skinned but I have to admit there are days it would be easier to stand down.

  2. jonnysoundsketch2 Says:

    Those who use me as an example of how not to live draw attention to who I am. Anyone they speak to who lives by the mandates of fear will listen to them; anyone curious as to how to live in a open, growing, vibrant relationship with the Lord and His people will seek me out. Even if they don’t agree with all I do, they at least benefit from the fact that they rejected the fear factor as ruler.

  3. Ula Says:

    A really great post. I personally think that someone as outspoken as Paul would have had a hard time to find a place in what today’s church had become for the most part. In so many instances it is all spit and polish veneer. We quickly learn what is “expected” and then we follow suit by pretending to fit in with the preconceived ideas. It is sad that honesty about who we are and what we struggle with are not very welcome. I think Paul worked really hard to make new believers understand that we are all people who needed a Saviour and that means none of us are perfect. I found the following verse to sum it up for me: Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.(Ephesians 4:2) NLT

  4. jonnysoundsketch2 Says:

    That’s one of my favorites, Ula

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