Teaching By Example

I recently wrote this article for the AFLC magazine, The Ambassador. It appeared in the January issue.

Years ago when my children were youngster, I read quite a few books about parenting, where I found all sorts of helpful advice. Here’s one insight I’ve never forgotten: children learn in three ways–by example, by example, and by example. Of course, that’s an oversimplification, but it draws attention to an important truth–our core values, our traditions, even our behavior, are more often “caught” than “taught.”

How do we do this? Of course, regularly going to church, Sunday school and Bible study are important. We need to learn the basics of the faith so that we understand what we believe and why. But this kind of knowledge is not enough. Polling expert George Barna reports that only 20 percent of those who attend evangelical Protestant churches have a biblical worldview. In other words, sitting in the pew doesn’t make you a practicing Christian any more than sitting in the garage makes you a car. The Bible warns that our faith is more than just intellectual assent to a set of doctrines. True faith results in Christian action.

The Apostle John wrote,

“Dear children, let us not love one another with words or speech, but in actions and in truth.”(1 John 3:18, emphasis mine)

And James echoed:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters if someone claims to have faith, but has not deeds? (James 2:14, emphasis mine)

As Lutherans, we know that we are not saved by our works, but these verses make it clear that Christian behavior will be evident in the life of a believer. What I’m describing here is the process of sanctification, and it is a process. It doesn’t happen automatically when we are baptized, or join a church, or complete confirmation classes. It’s a lifelong commitment to being transformed by the Holy Spirit into the image of Christ. If we mode this, our children will notice and remember it for the rest of their lives.

To be continued ….

For more on sanctification see these posts:

Trust God’s Process

Keep in Step with the Spirit

Everyday Faithfulness by Glenna Marshall — Book Review

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