Nothing stinks like hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy disillusions those who have listened to us and trusted us. Hypocrisy renders our words useless and empty. It makes our children cynical and undermines all we try to teach them. There’s nothing more empty than “Do what I say, not what I do.”
On the other hand, words backed by actions are powerful. Our actions can prove we really believe what we say and that others can believe us too. When we can say, “Do what I say AND what I do,” our words will have power and influence.
Paul unashamedly encouraged others to imitate his life.
1 CO 4.16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me.
In fact, he told the Philippians they should model their lives after him, and observe and imitate the lives of others who lived like him.
Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. PHP 3:17
Paul knew that example is a powerful teacher. A picture is worth a thousand words.
What examples are you leaving for others? What stories will others have to tell about you? What will they recall about how you react to pressure, or how you respond to someone’s anger? About your faith in the fire or your endurance and joy in tough times? About your generosity or your mercy to others?
What stories will your children have to tell about you? They’ll probably have funny stories about your quirks and botched projects. My kids have lots of stories they relish telling like about time time I made 20 pizzas hoping to freeze them for future meals, then having to throw them all away because of how bad they tasted. Our kids will most likely have plenty of funny stories to tell about our blunders and mess-ups. But hopefully they will be able to tell others about our joy in Christ, our patience with them, our treatment of those who were unkind to us, our commitment to Christ’s people, our mercy to the poor.
All this means that we need to be with other believers. We can’t just read about the Christian life or watch videos. We need to live our lives with others. Both so we can observe the lives of others for our own imitation, but also for them to see and imitate us. Paul commended Timothy for following his example:
You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness (2 TI 3:10)
Paul encouraged Timothy for following his teaching – for doing what he said. But he also commended him for doing what he did. For imitating “my aim in life” – Timothy had picked up Paul’s passion. He’d picked up Paul’s goal, Paul’s aim. He imitated the example of Paul’s faith – not simply the truth Paul believed, but the application of that truth. He’d watched Paul live out his faith. And because he had observed Paul in many situations with other believers, he was able to imitate Paul’s patience and love. Because he’d seen Paul joyfully persevere through affliction he could imitate Paul’s steadfastness.
People are watching us. Our children are watching us. Our fellow believers are watching us. Let’s show them something worth imitating, even as we imitate others.