“Show yourself an example of those who believe,“ Paul told Timothy (I Timothy 4:12, NASV). Elsewhere, he instructed believers to “observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us,” (Phil. 3:17 NASV). Paul gave Timothy sound instruction in the art of showing and telling, and his message was “Walk the walk before you talk the talk!” We need to practice what we preach before we attempt to share our proclamation.
John Greenleaf Whittier saw show-n-tell faith in John Woolman the Quaker Christian; thus, he introduced him as “a true life” that is both an “interpreter and proof of the gospel.” Example does more to establish “truth in the hearts of men” concluded Whittier, “than all the ‘Evidences’ and ‘Bodies of Divinity’ which have perplexed the world with more doubts than they solved.“ 1
One single picture can reveal ten-thousand words, but that places heavy responsibility where it most needs to be--on living the life. Personal examples provide powerful forces for good. On the other hand, half-hearted pursuit of life may reflect a lack of discipline that allows toleration of horrendous evil. John Woolman consequently looked for a sure way to challenge the incredible evil of his world. Believing that showing by example would prove more effective than giving declaration, Woolman challenged his world with his best behavior and used words only when necessary.
Woolman frequently hired out to people, contracting to write documents for them. In doing so, he worked hard at personally modelling a true faith. In spite of his being a Quaker and a strong Abolitionist, Woolman agreed on one occasion to write a Bill of Sale that would bind a Negro woman to the man that waited to purchase her.
When it came time for him to write the document, he discovered that the request was too sudden and that he felt quite uneasy about it. He consequently wrote in his diary, “I was so afflicted in my mind, that I said before my master and the Friend that I believed slave keeping to be a practice inconsistent with the Christian religion.” Upon reflecting further, he concluded, “I thought I should have been clearer if I had desired to be excused from it, as a thing against my conscience; for such it was.”2
The seriousness of global conflict today is such that only when we take our biblical beliefs seriously enough to model them in word, thought, and deed will we have any chance whatsoever of changing our culture. We live in a time when people challenge everything and believe nothing. If we want people to take us seriously and follow our faith, we must be extremely sensitive to the small issues that spoil the vine while we struggle valiantly in making the right choices in our larger issues (Song of Sol. 2:15).
1 The Journal of John Woolman. (Philadelphia: Friends Book Store, 1871), p. 44.
2 Woolman, p. 65.
From Warner's World.
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