I have been asked to set an example many times in life. Because I tended to be one of the “smart kids” in class, teachers often expected me to use my best behavior at all times. Most of the time, I obliged. As a teacher, I am constantly aware of the example I set. I don’t mind my students knowing I workout regularly or train to run a yearly marathon, and I certainly don’t mind them seeing me eating wholesome, nourishing food! On the other hand, I sometimes set a horrible example in time management, and it’s something I’ve just never quite been able to overcome. I do my best to shield my weakness (umm, “hide,” maybe) from my students. As a parent, some of my worst nightmares about being an example came true: no matter what I did, there seemed to be someone who could convince my kids that I was doing it all wrong, that all of my motives were selfish, and that they could find someone better to follow.
Christ, on the other hand, has always said things like, “Come, follow me,” and “Come and see.” He actually set a perfect example. We can lived as he lived, walk as he walked, teach what he taught, and know that we are doing right.
Of course, that leaves a few issues for me to grapple:
- Christ was angry when he cleansed the temple, or at least that’s how it seems to me. He was definitely violent. How am I supposed to reconcile a God that says, “love your enemies and pray for them that dispitefully use you” with this man in the temple flipping tables and swinging a whip around?
- Christ had very condemning words for the religious leaders of his day. He called them hypocties and made scathing comments. Yet, this was the Son of God who told us to “judge not.”
I don’t really have a perfect answer for these and for other examples that could be dug from the scriptures. What I do have is a testimony. I know that personally, I am to avoid hypocrisy as well as I can and seek the Savior’s grace because I’m going to fall short. If I don’t avoid pretended piety and live the gospel with real substance, I bring myself under the same condemnation as those ancient men who knew better but refused to choose better.
I have also learned that there are times when I have had to do things and say things that I really didn’t want to do or say, but I knew that I was being asked to do so by the power of the Holy Ghost. I wasn’t trying to “put anyone in their place,” I wasn’t angry, and I was doing my best to act out of love — even though the other person didn’t see it as love. I suspect that some of those paradoxes also played out in Christ’s life.
Thirdly, Christ paid the price in Gethsemane to know each of us more personally and initmately than we really know ourselves. We haven’t paid that price for anyone, so there are things we have to leave to Jesus, just as there are a handful of legitimate times that an adult has to tell a child to do as I say and not as I do (handling musical instruments in class is one example that truly comes to mind).
Also, just as my children were able to easily find influences that encouraged them to take an easier way out than the path to which I was trying to aim them, there is no end to the websites, broadcasts, articles, etc. that discredit Christ and his gospel. There is no end to the distractions that will pull us away from the Savior’s influence and erase his example from our mind.
This time, my “Challenge of the Week” has three parts:
- Critically examine the life I am leading and see where I need to improve my example so that I am living with substance instead of trying to maintain appearance,
- Examine my prayers, my scripture study, and other areas of my life to see if I truly understand Christ’s example and to see if I am actually following Christ’s example, and
- Petition heaven for divine aid in bringing my life into alignment with Christ and with eternal truth.