Living By Example- When Words Won't Work

Monday, August 7, 2017

I like to talk. I like to speak my mind. Sometimes that's a good thing. Sometimes that allows me to speak the truth when it needs to be said (lovingly), even when the truth isn't very popular. Sometimes it allows me to avoid lasting drama because I am willing to clear the air right then and there.

But, sometimes my love of talking gets me in trouble. Sometimes I sound ridiculous because I can't stop talking when I am nervous. Sometimes I worry out loud about things that shouldn't even be on my mind, which gets obnoxious for others. And from time-to-time, in an attempt to speak the truth in love, I forget that sometimes, living by example is more effective than talking about it.

There's a fine line. Truth should still be spoken. We shouldn't avoid or hide truth or our personal conviction. We should never be ashamed of them. But there are times that it doesn't matter what we say- people just aren't going to listen. And even more, there are times when saying anything (even when it's the truth) will actually hinder someone from seeing God, seeing truth, and seeing love.

It can often feel impossible to discern the difference between these scenarios. I mean really, how are we supposed to know what will be more effective for every single person we encounter?

Honestly, a lot of the time, I don't know the answer to that. But what I do know is that we should always be living by example. Times to speak will present themselves, but the time to live out the truth is always there.

We are called to live by example, but is that more important than speaking the truth even when it's unpopular? Read more to find out!

Commanded in Scripture

We are told over and over in scripture to live out what we believe.

John 13:35 says:
"By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

The above verse is 100% true. Jesus calls us to love God and love our neighbors. Those are the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:36-40). So obviously, living by an example of love is huge in the eyes of God.
But likewise, Galatians 6:1-9 shows us a method for both living in love and speaking the truth when it is needed. This isn't a contradiction, but a more detailed look at how to do both well. Take a look:
"Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers."

But there is something key here: this verse still focuses much more on us living out what we believe in our own lives more than anything else. Does it show that there is a time to speak the truth even when it isn't popular? Absolutely. But the verse seems to suggest that our first priority should be living out the truth- the second, speaking it.

They Will Know Us By Our Love

When my mom was a teen, she had known only of legalistic, judgmental churches. Not churches that stood firm in truth, but churches that gave you the side-eye for having on too much makeup or for listening to rock music.
It wasn't until she was an adult and met a group of people who loved her well exactly as she was that she began to be curious about God.

Did she need to know the truth about the error of her ways (sins), and did she need to turn to God? Of course. But had these people not loved her well, exactly where she was at, she would have had no interest in the truth they would later share with her. It was through Christ's love shining through them that she discovered the love of God, his ways, and the better version of life that he had for her.

They Will Notice And Ask

The awesome thing about all of this is that when we truly live for Jesus and people notice a difference, they will ask about it. Not everyone, of course. But some people will get curious, and they will ask about it in one way or another. And then our "living it out" can naturally segway into a moment of speaking the truth. And God says that we should "always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15).

It always makes me so happy when people notice and ask. I love talking about it, and I love knowing that they saw something different in me. 

Obviously, sometimes we just have to be brave and speak the truth even when no one asked for it or wanted it. There are times where that is appropriate. But there are also clearly times when it's not. And as a general rule, people should be able to see that there is something different about us before we've ever spoken directly about our faith.

People should know that we love them with all of our hearts even if we disagree with their lifestyle. And people should see that we live differently. They should be able to see that we don't do the things that the world does to find happiness. And they should see that we live this way with humility. No one wants to be preached to by an arrogant Christian about the way in which they are living. No bueno.

So speak the truth when it's necessary, and of course also when it is asked of you. But even when you are silent, be constantly living out the truth that is alive in you. It's a process, and I am on this journey with you!

Even though speaking the truth (in love) is a good thing, living out the truth can often be more effective. Read more at The Peculiar Treasure!

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