We humans have a variety of "learning" styles. Some of us need visual input in order to grasp something, while others can simply read the instructions and get it perfectly. Maybe this is why some of those "some assembly required" items we purchase come with both written and pictorial instruction sheets! Whenever I get one which is just written, with no pictures at all, I sigh and dig into the "reading". I "can" learn how to put the thing together from the "reading", but the "picture" would have made it a whole lot faster!
Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. (I Timothy 4:12 The Message)
Paul is instructing Timothy, a relatively young believer, how to "teach" with his life. In essence, he is telling him to make accommodations for the various "learning" styles of individuals! Some will learn about Christ in what you say, others in how you live. One is the word alone - the other is the illustration (the pictures to follow!).
Teach with your life. Did you ever stop to consider the "lesson" being taught by your life? In my own experience, I am often amazed at just how many people are watching my steps. As a mother, I expected my children would watch the steps, but did I expect younger mothers to be watching? Not really. Yet, this is a principle taught in scripture - the more "experienced" helping the "inexperienced" to gain the knowledge they need. Paul outlines several components of "teaching" which we need to be familiar with:
1. We teach with our words. Uh oh! Now I have gone to meddling, right? What we speak carries meaning - even carelessly spoken words. Whenever we respond "flippantly" or without much thought, we are never fully appreciating the "lesson" being learned by another. I was taught "children are to be seen and not heard" - how about you? What a tragedy! Some of the most awesome lessons I learned came when my own kids spoke truth which opened my eyes to my own short-comings. When they were open enough with me to share how disappointed they were with my critical or impatient response to them, I learned to alter my response! Words indeed speak volumes - the message we convey must be trustworthy and aligned with the Word of God.
2. Instruct with your demeanor. In simplest terms, demeanor is your conduct. How you "behave" is similar to the illustrations in the instruction booklet you utilize in assembling something. What Paul is referring to here is the actual "doing" of the Word - living out your faith. Much more is spoken in an action than in a word. Our pastor says love is a verb - it is an action. No amount of "I love you" responses speak louder than one selfless action! Think about it - God could have stayed in heaven, telling us over and over he loved us - but in the spreading of his arms out on the cross, the action spoke intense love!
3. Learning comes when actions stimulate the heart. Since love is an action, the emotion is stimulated by the actions of love. We often think of the mind as being stimulated to learn - I think the greatest learning comes when the heart finally makes a connection with the mind! Love is "learned" when the heart is touched through the actions of the mind, will, and emotions!
4. How does one teach with his/her faith? Paul instructs Timothy to teach others through his faith - so understanding this seems critical to us learning how to be good "teachers", as well. Let me say this - the connection made between what is "believed" and what is "practiced" is probably what is referred to here. It is never enough to say we "believe". In fact, we go through times when our "belief" is put to the test! Sometimes more is spoken in our ability to look beyond the immediate display of "circumstantial evidence". "Circumstantial evidence" is what we see on the surface of the challenge - "faith" is what we believe in and who we believe will bring us clarity in the midst of the challenge.
5. Lest Paul overlook the "consistency" thing - he adds to let a life of integrity be a tool to instruct others. Nothing does more to discredit an individual than to live a life of inconsistency. What we say should match what we do, what we believe should guide us in how to behave, and how we are loved should influence how others experience love through us. More is learned in the transparency of consistent living than in all the words we can speak or pen.
Just some lessons on the importance of "teaching" with our lives. Never can tell when you will be the focus of someone's "learning opportunity" this week! So, live well!