The silent preaching of a godly life is at the heart of Christ-like living. It is said different ways, with different illustrations. Take the poet’s version:
“I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;
I’d rather one would walk with me than simply tell the way.”
How many times did Jesus say, “Follow Me”? And if we take His example, and follow Him, that means we also must be able to say, “Follow ME”—meaning, “Follow [Brother ME]” or “Follow [Sister YOU]”!
Are we ready to take on THAT responsibility?
The point is: Our example must be clear enough – straight enough – dependable enough –visible enough in everyday life, even when not a word is said, so that others SEE and FOLLOW.
Else it is NOT what it should be.
The apostle Paul was there when he said,
1 Cor. 11:1 1Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.
Or as the Moffatt Bible phrases it,
“Copy me… as I copy Christ.”
You may have heard the story of a Friar named St. Francis of Assisi who with a young monk set off to the nearby city to preach the Gospel. As they trudged along the road, they engaged in earnest conversation, and continued just as earnestly as they threaded the city streets. Suddenly the young man realized they had left the city and were on the way home.
“Good Father,” the young man exclaimed. “When will we begin to preach?” To which the Friar replied, “My son, we have been preaching all the way.”
That is the lesson of Scripture: the silent preaching of a godly life, a life that says, “Follow me.”
Where are the Scriptures that back this up?
Let’s think about the First Epistle of Peter. If Paul was intent on being crucified with Christ, Peter was intent on following Christ’s example. We may even see it as the central focus of his letter. Following Christ was his challenge. Nothing easy. Look at 1 Peter 2, verse 19.
1 Pet. 2:19–23 (KJV 1900) 19For this is thankworthy [commendable], if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. 20For what glory [what credit to you] is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently?
If you were punished for doing wrong, that was fair because you deserved it. But what if you were innocent, and you didn’t do wrong? And you must suffer.
That is when it can be hard, VERY hard to take it patiently. But there is no other option as Peter says:
… if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable [commendable] with God.
Take undeserved punishment in a right spirit…? This is the test Jesus had.
21For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
Christ is our example, says Peter. He showed us how to take it.
Peter still had vividly in his mind that night before Jesus was crucified. Peter was there! How did Jesus take it? Verse 22:
22Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
23Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.
What an example! What silent preaching. No answering back when He was wronged, no contention. Peter was still remembering it, many years later.
In the next chapter Peter makes another point about example.
1 Pet. 3:1–2 1Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, 2when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.
Think about it: Peter says the godly example of the wife, the silent preaching “without a word” may WIN the husband to the faith!
It is the silent preaching of the wife’s godly life:
- Being faithful and honorable in her marriage
- Staying calm in the midst of strife – because her heart is stayed on God.
- Refusing to join those who agitate revolt;
- Withdrawing from those who dishonor God
- Overlooking slights and petty annoyances
It is the winning power of example.
In our culture today the lesson would be about the same, whether wife or husband was converted to the faith; whether the wife was influencing husband or the husband was influencing the wife. But in the Roman world it was very different. There the woman had no rights. Her husband could even kill her if he wanted to. She had no legal or social rights. If she should be won to Christ’s cause without the consent of her husband, she had a nearly impossible situation.
But Peter saw a possible solution. Even though the wife had no rights and no position, her husband might be won to the faith by her clean, pure, reverent conduct.
Oh, the power of a godly example!
The apostle John said the same about choosing the right example to follow:
3 John 11 11Beloved, do not imitate [follow] what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.
“Follow Me” might seem like a simple, no-problem instruction. But when it comes down to the DOING, it may be different. How many times did Jesus say, “Follow me”?
Jesus said it to “them all”:
Luke 9:23 23Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.
In other words, Jesus says, that is what I am doing. I am denying myself, I am taking up my cross every day. You must do the same.
At the end of Luke 9 are 3 situations to which Jesus gave “follow Me” instructions. There was no need to preach but only to silently follow. Let us look at Luke 9 beginning with verse 57:
Luke 9: 57-6257Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.”
Sounds like Jesus has an eager, willing follower, ready to go with Him “Everywhere.”
58And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
Did Jesus have literally no place to lay His head? He knew well the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus would take him in. Any time, any day.
No, Jesus was teaching a deeper truth. He was speaking about the true teaching He lived and embodied, the “spiritual Christ.” The people He was addressing had no idea of the value of His message, and they didn’t want it. They resisted His teaching and His example, and were not ready to “follow.”
Then someone else comes along, and Jesus says to him,
59…“Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”
The “BUT” interrupted the man’s willingness to follow. It was a wrong priority—there is no indication how aged his father might have been. So Jesus replies:
60… “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”
Then one more would-be follower approaches Jesus.
61And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.”
Another “BUT.” He must say goodbye to all the loved ones.
62But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
We either take Jesus’ example and go ahead, or, looking back, we miss the Kingdom. There can be no “BUT” in our decision, nothing coming between us and following Christ.
And if we obey Jesus’ word to “Follow Me,” remember what that means.
Because WE ourselves have to be able to say, “Follow ME…. Copy me” and give others a Christ-like pattern to copy!
What a challenge! What an opportunity! What a witness to the faith we profess!
It is leading others by example; by silent, everyday life-preaching.