By Alex Florez
You may remember a commercial from the nineties that featured an explosive father-son interaction. Dad storms into his son’s room holding a little box. The lid is open just enough for us to see a vague mess of plastic baggies, which we infer to be some sort of illicit drug. Dad begins interrogating his son about the stash, and the son takes the classic “deny, deny, deny” approach. Finally, dad demands to know, “Who taught you how to do this stuff?” The son’s response is shocking: “I learned it from watching you!” Oh, dang! Dad just got absolutely roasted! It turns out what the father dearest thought was his secret little life was painfully obvious to his son all along, and his behavior had led his own child down a dark and dangerous road.
This vintage piece of television reminds us of the biblical principle that behavior matters. What we do in public, and even in private, has the potential to shape lives. Just when we think no one is watching, there may be a set of impressionable eyes taking note of the decisions we make, the words we choose, and perhaps even the attitude we carry into the room. Paul gives us very practical advice when he says, “set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity” (1Timothy 4:12).
I am inclined to feel quite overwhelmed, misapprehending that the spiritual well-being of my friends and family hinges on whether or not I set a perfect example, or that any imperfect behavior on my part might occlude the effectiveness of God’s salvation for those witnessing my life. Thank God, the responsibility of people’s eternal souls does not rest on my shoulders. God is mighty to save, and He will not be stopped from redeeming those whom He has called. God is neither enabled nor derailed by my actions because the blood of Jesus is singularly and unequivocally effective. In light of the certainty of God’s saving grace, I am free to respond to His holiness with a changed heart that is increasingly delighted by holy living.
However, the reminder that God is sovereign even in spite of our imperfection does not give us license to run rampant and behave in a way that is unbefitting of our calling as followers of Jesus Christ. We must etch God’s love and faithfulness on the “tablets of [our] hearts” (Proverbs 7:3), and we must pursue His holiness all the days of our lives. Scripture alone, guided by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, must shape our thinking, our speech, and our actions. The Bible as a whole—not just one verse about proper behavior—gives us the full sense of how Jesus Christ transforms us from the inside out. Pure behavior does not beget salvation-worthy proselytes; rather, it is standing firmly in the certainty of salvation through Jesus that begets holy living, which is the natural emanation of a redeemed heart.