“Show and tell”

“Show and tell”

Remember “show and tell” at school? I thought about how that applies to how I share the gospel …

5 min ·

Do you remember the “show and tell” days at school? Pupils could bring in items from home that were special in some way; either unusual in themselves or with a very interesting history. The object would be passed around the class and everybody could handle it, look at it closely and get drawn into the story of its past. They could appreciate it and understand more about it because they had seen it with their own eyes. It would have much less impact if each student had just come in and said, “I have this special thing at home and I am going to explain to you what it is like …”

That which we have heard, seen, looked upon, and handled

I was reminded of this when thinking about how I behaved when I was a young Christian – newly converted and with an enthusiasm to tell people exactly what I believed, and why I believed it. I started with my younger brother; I had cornered him in the dining room and decided to explain to him what a Christian was. After I had finished telling him why Jesus came to earth, I then explained what I thought his future would look like if he didn’t believe what I believed. There is no need to repeat what I told him here, but the look on his face showed me that I had left him miserable and almost feeling bullied. I was telling him what I wanted him to believe without showing him what a Christian life was.

The difference between showing and telling gradually dawned on me as I got older. As human beings we are inspired by what we can “see and touch” for ourselves. John talks about this in one of his letters. He describes something “which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life.” 1 John 1:1.

You might think that John was just telling them about Jesus, and Jesus wasn’t actually there.

Ah, but He was ….

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Jesus’ life in us

And this is the crux of the whole thing. When we start living what is written in the gospel instead of just understanding it, then Jesus’ life starts to grow and develop within us and this is what people can “touch and handle.”  Living what is written requires us to give up our own will, and this is “the dying of the Lord Jesus” that Paul refers to.

“Always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Christ may also be manifested in our body.” 2 Corinthians 4:10.

We can feel compelled to explain what the Bible says about how and why Jesus came to earth to save us, but if we are not living what we are saying, then our words make no impact. When we are young, we can’t expect to be full of God’s wisdom. But even as a young teenager, I could have lived with a smidgen of humility. I could have lived what I understood at the time, which was simple enough, goodness knows. Just being kind to my brother and being helpful at home would have been a good place to start – and it would have been enough! Even such small things count when we are starting off on this life. God doesn’t expect us to be theologians or preachers, especially when we are teenagers. But He does expect us to be honest and to do what we know. Not just to “tell,” but to “show”.

A change takes place

How much more I could have won my brother’s heart if I had spent time with him, instead of just telling him how he must change, then going off and doing my own thing. If we can’t show others that we are living what we believe, then what we are saying will lose any authority. What my family could see of me at that time was a lot of enthusiasm for something that hadn’t yet changed my life from the inside. What they still saw was a girl who was wrapped up in herself and who would be reluctant to offer help and support within the home.

As I got older, I became more concerned with doing what I understood and asking God for help when I failed. When we keep doing this, then our lives slowly but surely change, and over time this change will be noticed by those we know. If I had been more concerned with this process when newly converted, then perhaps I could have saved my brother from being overwhelmed by my knowledge, and instead he could have been warmed and cheered by a sister who cared about him.

This know-it-all teenager who wanted to tell people what to believe, became a mother and grandmother who has experienced the life-of-hard-knocks, as many have. My experience of life has shown me this; God wants to give us His Spirit to guide us through life, showing us how our human nature dominates what we say and do, and then giving us the strength and power to do His will instead of our own. If we submit ourselves to this process in blind faith, then a miracle starts to take place. We are changed from the inside and this is what people we live with will be able to see, and touch and handle. And even better, it is what will draw them to want this life for themselves, and we may not have to say a thing.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, unless otherwise specified. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.