preach what you practice

The old scholar is near the end of his life. He has one last time, as far as he knows, to talk to his favorite student. It is, as far as we know, his last lecture.

They have spent much time together. They have spent much time apart. The teacher has done more than talk to his student. They have traveled together. He has put the student in several internships. He has left the student in charge of his own classes. The teacher has written to his student before, providing lecture notes and teaching strategies and personal advice.

And now, near the end, he is winding down his comments.

“You know all about my teaching,” he writes. And in that, he is consistent with what most of us would say. “Do what I’ve said.”

But he goes on.

You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. (2 Timothy 3:10-11)

As a teacher, he was willing to point to his teaching. But he also pointed to how he lived, what he was about, what his character was like, what he went through. Paul, this teacher, was willing to open his whole life to this student, willing to be ruthlessly transparent.

He knew he wasn’t perfect. But that was part of the point. It wasn’t his perfection that he was arguing for anyway. His message was that God had worked in his life…and the only way he could make that claim is if he opened up his life. In fact, that’s the next phrase:

Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.

The challenge for me is simple: can I preach what I practice.  It’s easy to say almost anything. It’s easy to write, to tell, to say. And then try to get what I live in line with that.

But if I laid out what Paul does…say, live, believe, suffer. That’s a tough standard. But if you are talking about how to live, I guess it would be a fair test.

Time to think a bit more.

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