Friday, May 4, 2007

Do as I say? Not likely. . .

I few weeks ago I took a quilt class that frustrated me. The teacher shared several design principles that I’d learned in art classes years prior, and stressed how important they were in the types of quilts highlighted in her session. However, she herself didn’t use those principles in her own quilts. In fact, most of what was produced by the students in that class looked better than the work of the teacher. Further, she didn’t seem to notice that she was not using her own advice. This made me shudder.

In contrast, a week ago, our guest preacher gave instruction before his message. He said we would be tempted to apply his words to other people, but “Don’t do that. Make this personal.”

This morning, both incidents come together with today’s Scripture reading and slapped me around the ears.

I suppose I’m critical of teachers because my spiritual gift is teaching. I deeply enjoy gathering information and sharing it with others. If someone asks me to look something up for them, I am happy as a toddler in a puddle. I also appreciate someone who can do a good job of presenting well-researched and helpful information.

However, the downside of this gift is that once I know a thing, I tend to stop there. Hello? Am I any different than the quilt instructor? No. In my mind, knowing often equals doing, but that is silly. Again, my reading today points out just how silly it is. Like the preacher says, I need to apply these things to me, not other people.

The reading is John 13 and about Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. He gave them a demonstration of His love for them, of humility at its best. He also showed them that being a leader means being a servant. He said, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

Some take this as a command to literally wash feet and have made a sacrament out of it, but I don’t think that is what Jesus wants. Instead, He is asking us to get off our pedestals and put ourselves into service. Knowing what to do is not enough. True blessedness is in doing what we know.

Hmm. I know that, both in my head and thankfully from some experience. However, God convicts me this morning with a parallel passage from Luke 6:40. It says, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.”

Teaching is a great responsibility. James 3 starts out with, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” Jesus says when I teach others, they will be like me. That means if I only know what I say is true but am not doing it, they too will have a head full of information, but their lives will not be changed.

I’m stopped cold by the thought. The quilt class aside, students of spiritual matters imitate what they see done, not what they are told to do. This is why Jesus took His disciples on continual ‘field trips.’ They watched Him in action, and by seeing what He did, they were later able to do it themselves. We are changed by observing the actions of a godly person.

Bottom line. If I’m only a talking head, the people I teach will maybe agree with me, maybe think how they should apply my lessons, maybe apply it to someone else they know, but likely not put it into practice in their own lives. I have to be doing what I say, if is expect them to do what I say. Otherwise, they will do as I do, and become bobble-heads themselves.

For such nonsense, I will receive a stricter judgment.

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