And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. ~ Titus 2:7 (NLT)
From grade school through high school, I was obsessed with sports. I lived and breathed sports. Football, check. Baseball, oh yeah! Volleyball, woohoo! Basketball, whoa! I loved them all. I practiced every day. I wanted to be the best athlete my school had ever seen. It was a lofty ambition. But, I was young and had incredible hopes for my life. And, I did get good. Not particularly great, but by the time I got to Jr. High, I was the top athlete in my grade.
There was a small problem. I knew I was better, and when on the court, I was never shy about telling others when they had failed my team – especially basketball. I would literally scream at my teammates when they made a mistake; out in the open, in front of everyone. I was a horrible teammate. Instead of helping my teammates improve by showing them the tips and tricks I had learned in my own skillset development, I expected them to rise to my level without any coaching, practice, or assistance. In short, I was a jerk.
Unfortunately, this is something that many have also experienced through the church. They’ve been belittled, yelled at, judged, condemned, and beat over the head with the Bible and even Ellen White. Rather than others helping them to improve their skillset in how to develop a deeper, transforming relationship with Jesus Christ, they’ve just been told over and over that they are inferior Christians who are bound for judgment by the Almighty.
Yet, by doing this, our words do not represent a God of infinite love, mercy, and grace. As the verse brings out, we must lead by example in every area of our lives. Within the context of Titus chapter two, Paul is talking about mentoring, or what we call discipleship. We are called to demonstrate biblical truth. We can’t do that by wrinkling our foreheads, putting a scowl on our faces, and hurling insults at other sinners. Rather, we are called to come along side others in our church family and help them develop a skillset that will help them succeed. We are called to coach, not condemn.
Luckily, my Jr. High coach believed the same thing and helped me understand the value of positive reinforcement and mentoring. I stopped screaming and started discipling.