When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. John13:12-17; ESV
Throughout the years in the fields where I am called to use my various gift and talents, I come across people whom I counsel that asks me, “How can I get so-and-so to do this or that?” This could be things like to stop swearing, to clean up after themselves, to pay more attention to them, or even to desire a relationship with God. And even though their quest for these individuals span a wide range of issues, there is one common thing which links all of them to one simple cause of change: living out the thing which they would like the other person to do. Some call this modeling.
This sounds simple in explanation; however, it is a very hard task to maintain unless you are committed to live that out. Just recently, a mother had created a set of rules for her children. On this set of rules, she had using bad words. And with the set of rules, she listed the consequences for breaking the rules. The use of bad words listed the punishment as well. So I asked her, “Does this mean that when you use bad words that this punishment will be given to you?” She said, “No, we’re going to have a swear jar…” I then told her that the punishment for using bad words should be the same across the board because the children’s punishment was worse than the adult’s punishment. Her husband chimed in and said, “I don’t see the big deal with swearing!” But yet, he still thought that the children needed to be punished for the use of these words. I fired back and said, “If you would model that the use of bad words are wrong by NOT swearing, they will learn that they are not to use those words. If they hear you saying them all the time, they will think that this is the way life is supposed to be and the use is okay.” He had nothing to say.
This sounds simple and an understandable as an example, but when you have a mindset of “there’s nothing wrong with this”, then you shouldn’t be offended when others do the same thing you do. It really bothers me when people live life with the “do as I say and not as I do” mentality. They have no right to be upset when their children have premarital sex when the parent has a live-in significant other and are not married. They cannot be condemning their children for doing drugs and alcohol when they go out and party all the time. (Now, I am not condoning these behaviors, but using these as examples.)
People look at believers in Christ and call them hypocrites when they preach one thing, and then fall into sinful behaviors. They claim that this behavior is why they can justify their non-desire to come to church and to stay separated from God. And I am not trying to justify the backsliding into sinful habits; but instead of judging them, we should be praying for them, teaching them how to avoid the downfalls of going back to unhealthy habits (physically, emotionally, and spiritually), and loving them through their hard times. More importantly, we should model for them proper ways to overcome these wrong behaviors. In the real world, we are call to do the same for our loved ones! This is the common answer I and the passage provided shares.
How can we even ask something of someone when we wouldn’t do it ourselves? In the passage, Jesus models the proper way to serve other. He didn’t just do this the one time, but He made it a lifestyle for Himself. It was evident all the time that He believed in this because His life reflected His comments. Just like non-believers expect believers of Christ to live it then preach it, they should apply this belief to everything they are! If you want your children to respect you, respect them. If you want your spouse to love you and support you, do the same for them. If you desire your family to desire Christ, show them your desire by living it out! The term “practice what you preach” is one that everyone should live out.
I try my best to live out what I believe, what I expect from others, and what God places on my heart. I know that if I truly desire for others to change, I must reflect what a changed life is like. I can’t preach how God changes lives if my life hasn’t changed. I can’t prove the power of the Scriptures in a life if I don’t personally turn to them for wisdom and answers. And I can’t prove faith unless I put my faith to actions.
If you want to “preach it” and have it accepted by others, then it will do you good to first live it out as a testimony to God and others.
Please help us to be more like You. Teach us to live it before we preach it in every aspect of life; that we might be good examples of people who truly seek Your will in our lives. My others be drawn unto You because they see You in us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.