Summary: Perhaps you heard this phrase growing up (and have repeated it to your own kids): 'do as I say, not as I do'. I can swear but if I hear you do it you're in trouble. Contrast that with what we see in the bible and we realize the right thing to be able to say is, 'do as I do'.
DO AS I DO
Perhaps you heard this phrase growing up (and have repeated it to your own kids): 'do as I say, not as I do'. That's our response when we hear, 'but you do it' or, 'but you say it'. I can swear up a storm but if I hear you do it you're in big trouble. The idea of holding our kids to a standard we don't follow does not send a good message; it doesn't set a good example.
Contrast that with what we see in the bible and we realize the right thing to be able to say is, 'do as I do'. Let's see what we can learn about the importance of setting a good example.
1) As I follow Christ.
1st Cor. 11:1, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." Here we have Paul saying, 'do as I do'.
He invites the Corinthians to watch him and then do what he does. But then he explains who's example it really is-Jesus'. He wants them to know that whatever they see in him that's worth following is because of Jesus. We can't set a good example until we first follow the example set for us by Christ. I can't give you an example of goodness, righteousness, wisdom or love apart from the example already given to me through the actions of Jesus.
Jesus set countless examples but I'm just going to focus on where the word example is used. In John's gospel, we see Jesus giving his disciples an example of humble service.
John 13:12-17, "When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."
Jesus asks if they understood what he had just done. If they were to answer, 'yeah, you just washed our feet', they'd be missing the greater significance. This wasn't about clean feet, this was about humility, unity and outreach. Earlier, when Peter objected to Jesus washing his feet, Jesus replied, "unless I wash you, you have no part with me'. Peter didn't understand in the moment but Jesus was communicating the importance of submission.
In Matt. 16 when Jesus told the disciples he was going to suffer, die and rise again, Peter objected. That plan of suffering didn't set well with Peter and he made it clear. Jesus rebuked him, saying, 'get behind me, Satan. You do not have in mind the things of God but the things of men'. Peter was responding in pride and self-preservation-two things that work against following Christ.
Peter didn't like that Jesus was washing his feet. Jesus was telling him he needed to get over it. If you're going to serve me you need to be humble, teachable and selfless. Jesus wanted them to see that washing their feet was meant to be a teachable moment for them. It wasn't as much about serving a practical purpose as it was a spiritual one.
The Apostles had argued before about which one of them was the greatest and Jesus gave them a lesson on humility. And they didn't get it because Luke 22 records them arguing again about this here at the Last Supper! So, Jesus gives them another lesson on humility.
He wanted them to be unified. The only way his work would be accomplished after he left them was if they were going to band together as brothers. Jesus knew their pride would not accomplish anything good. So, his example of humble servitude was an example for them to follow so the greater purpose would be achieved. He wanted them to see that true greatness was in being humble.
He said a servant isn't greater than his master. He's saying, "if you think washing feet or doing a lowly task is beneath you because you're an Apostle, think again. If I, the creator and sustainer of the universe can humble myself to wash your feet (when you should be washing mine) then you need to be willing to do anything I ask of you. And if you think there's no blessing in that, you're wrong again. However, the blessing is in doing these things, not knowing these things".
The Apostles knew what Jesus had taught. He told them in Matt. 18 that whoever humbles himself like a child is the greatest but they didn't put it into practice. We can learn all the lessons Jesus taught but if we don't practice them, we won't be blessed. There is a blessing in knowing the truth and understanding what we're supposed to do, but the greater blessing comes in doing what we know.