I don’t remember exactly how old I was when my mom told me I had to brush my teeth with soap, but I do remember where I was and what I’d said. I never used much bad language when I was a kid, so this was the first and only time I had to wash my mouth out with soap. Needless to say, it made an impact.
I was running up the basement stairs after competing in some meaningless sport or other activity with my younger brother when I yelled down at him (apologies for the language), “Kyle, you are p$&%#ing me off!” I’d learned the phrase from a neighborhood kid a number of years older than me. I didn’t know what it meant, but I knew it was something you yelled at people when you were mad at them.
The neighborhood kid was not setting a good example in speech for me, his young friend. Unfortunately, we Christians often don’t do our part to set good examples for others in our lives either. Depending on how we are wired, most of us tend either toward legalism or licentiousness. That is to say, some Christians lean more toward pridefully following the rules, and some lean toward pridefully pushing the limits of what is allowed in our speech, our conduct, or otherwise.
Thankfully, as followers of Jesus, we know and must remind each other that our works do not save us. We rely on the grace of God in Christ alone to save us from our sin. But this glorious truth does not exempt us from living lives worthy of our salvation, setting good examples for all with whom we come in contact. First Timothy 4:12 says, “Set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.”
Practically speaking, what does this look like in our lives? It means we can’t beat ourselves up for not being shining examples of righteousness in every moment. But it also means we should seek to live lives worthy of Christ. Setting an example for others in our conduct really comes down to being mindful of our surroundings and our calling as Christians: to die to ourselves, sacrificing our perceived freedoms to become more like Jesus, walking in the freedom that can only come from knowing Him.
As we walk with Christ, we look to God’s Word to see how He conducts Himself, how He speaks, and how He lives, with the goal of imitating Him, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Written by Chris Martin