Some schools have “show and tell” days. The children can bring something from home that is special in some way; the item itself can be unusual or maybe there is an interesting story about it. The item is passed around the class, and everybody can touch it and look at it closely and get to hear its story.
The children understand it better when they see the item with their own eyes and have even touched it. It would have been much less interesting and made much less of an impression if each child had just come in and said, “I’ve got this special thing at home, and I am going to tell you what it’s like …”
That which we have heard, seen, looked at and touched with our hands
This reminded me of how I behaved when I was a young Christian – newly converted and very eager to tell people exactly what I believed and why I believed it. I started with my younger brother; I decided to explain to him what a Christian was. After I had finished telling him why Jesus had come to earth, I told him what I thought his future would look like if he didn’t believe what I believed. The look on his face showed me that I had left him miserable and almost feeling bullied. I was telling him what I wanted him to believe without showing him what a Christian life was.
Only as I grew older, I began to see the difference between showing and telling. As human beings we are motivated to do something by what we can “see and touch” for ourselves. John talks about this in 1 John 1:1 (NCV). He describes something “which we have heard, we have seen with our own eyes, we have looked at, and we have touched with our hands. We write to you about the Word that gives life.”
You might think that John was just telling them about Jesus, and that Jesus wasn’t really there.
Ah, but He was there ….
The life of Jesus in us
And this is the whole point. When we start “living” what is written in the gospel instead of just understanding it, then “the life of Jesus” starts to grow within us and this is what people can “touch and see”. Living as is written in the Bible means that we give up our own will, and this is “the death of Jesus” that Paul speaks about in 2 Corinthians 4:10 (NCV): “We carry the death of Jesus in our own bodies so that the life of Jesus can also be seen in our bodies.”
We can think that we have to explain what the Bible says about how and why Jesus came to earth to save us, but if our lives are not showing what we are saying, then our words mean nothing.
When we are young, we can’t expect to be full of God’s wisdom. But even as a young teenager, I could have had a little humility. I could have lived according to the little bit that I understood at that time, which was simple enough. Just being kind to my brother and being helpful at home would have been a good place to start! Even such small things count when we’re starting to live this life. God doesn’t expect us to be preachers with a lot of knowledge. But He does expect us to be honest and to do what we understand. Not just to “tell”, but to “show”.
A change takes place
I could have won my brother’s heart much more if I had spent time with him instead of just telling him how he must change and then leaving, busy again with my own things. If we can’t show others that we are living what we believe, then our words don’t mean anything. What my family could see at that time was a person with a lot of enthusiasm for something that hadn’t yet changed her life from the inside. What they saw was a girl, still just thinking of herself, who was not so willing to help in her own home.
As I got older, I focused more on doing what I understood and asking God for help when I failed. When we keep doing this, then our lives start to change, and over time this change will be seen by those who know us. If I had thought about it like that when I was newly converted, then maybe my brother could have been warmed and supported more by a sister who cared about him.
From a know-it-all teenager who wanted to tell people what to believe, I became a mother and a grandmother who has gone through trials, as many others have too. My experience of life has shown me that God wants to give us His Spirit to guide us through life. He shows us how our human nature wants to control what we say and do, but He also gives us the power to do His will instead of our own.
For this to happen, we really have to believe that God knows what is best for us (even if we don’t always understand it) and give ourselves over to God to do with us what He thinks is best. Then after a time we will see that we change. God is changing us from the inside and this is what the people we live with will be able to see and “touch”. And even better, it is what will draw them to want this life for themselves.