Call me weird, but I love being at the airport. The different people walking to and from their destinations catch my attention. Honestly, I can get distracted by “people-watching.” I observe what patches they have on their backpacks, what stickers are on their water bottles, and what t-shirts they chose to wear that day. Typically, I can learn a lot about these strangers by simply observing how they carry themselves. Sometimes, however, what I observe about them doesn’t match every action they do. Like seeing a person eating a Chick-fil-A sandwich, even though they have a “vegan” sticker on their water bottle.
Sure, there could be a lot of reasons behind this example, but I’m sure you’ve experienced something similar with the people in your life. Can you think of a time when you’ve seen someone “promoting” one thing, but they live a different way? Maybe it’s a friend who says they’re always there for you, but the moment you ask for help, they abandon you without reason. Maybe it’s someone at school or home who says they’re a Christian, but their actions don’t match up with the way Jesus tells us to act.
These moments can feel disorienting and confusing, especially for those of us who are trying to live a life of faith but see it modeled poorly for us.
Well, you may be surprised to know that Jesus saw similar patterns while He did ministry on the earth. In Matthew 23:2¬–4, speaking to a crowd and His disciples, He said,
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
The teachers of the law knew what Scripture said and were great at teaching it. Unfortunately, they did a poor job of living the Scriptures out in a way that glorified God. This passage tells us that their actions caused other people to be burdened, yet they refused to help. They preached God’s word but weren’t willing to follow it in their daily lives.
Modeling our faith for others can be a challenging thing. We should strive to live a life that reveals Christ to others in all we do and speak. But there will be times when we fail. How we respond to these failures says a lot about who we are. Unlike the Pharisees, we can choose humility and repentance when we hurt others. There will also be times when other believers fail us. How we respond to these failures says a lot about who we are and what we believe, too. We have the option to choose forgiveness and grace instead of bitterness and anger when a person asks for our forgiveness.
At the end of the day, we are all on our own walk with the Lord, taking steps on the path He has given us, trusting Him to lead us into Christlikeness. So, I encourage you to sit and ask yourself these questions:
- Have I been living a life that doesn’t match up with what I say I believe? Take a moment to bring this to the Lord and repent. Ask Him for what you need.
- Are there people in my life I need to forgive for not living a life consistent with what they believe? Give those people to the Lord, if applicable. Ask Him to give you grace and love for them.
Be aware that others are observing the way you live your life. Whether they’re younger or older than you, your life has the power to impact people. So, I leave you with Matthew 5:16: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”