Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.  For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you,  nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you.  It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. (2 Thessalonians 3:6–9)
In one of my summer jobs as a teenager, our store manager decided the summer staff needed a lecture. I don’t remember that we were doing wrong, but I do remember the manager’s final statement: “Do as I say, not as I do!”
It’s clear from the Apostle Paul teaching in this passage, if we’re ever tempted to make this statement, it’s time for earnest prayer.
The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod places a high value on orthodox doctrine and practice. At our Concordia Universities and Seminaries, church workers become well-grounded in Scriptural teachings. We in turn do the same for Bible and confirmation classes, adult instruction classes and sermons. We expect the heads of households to be able to verbalize articles of the faith.
What we do not emphasize as much in the LCMS is teaching right doctrine and practice through our actions. There are good reasons for this. For example, teaching the faith through actions is more open to interpretation than teaching through the spoken or written word.
However, it is possible for modeling the faith to be more impactful than mere words. Off the top of my head, I can think of a handful of experiences with my parents that taught me lessons about the faith that had a far deeper impact than a family discussion.
Because we at times “say one thing but do another,” God has embedded forgiveness deeply into the Church’s culture. We can experience weekly confession and absolution in worship and private confession and absolution on request. We also are encouraged to forgive one another (James 5:16 ) and given a process for forgiveness (Matthew chapter 18)
When lived out, there are also ways the faith is modeled for us.
(A Second Look devotions are written for the congregations of the Ohio District LCMS.)