I was, by profession, a public school teacher of elementary school children. I understand the importance of thoroughly understanding that which I was going to attempt to teach. If I did not understand the material I was going to present, my students wouldn't either. If I gave them the wrong information, then they in turn would pass that wrong information onto others thus perpetuating a "false teaching".
Here is one such example:
At what time of year is the earth closest to the sun? If you asked this question of most people, they would say in the summer time. Now, if you are Alison Stewart (@kiwibird), Shani Matthews (@shanijane), Shirley Hooper (@mumbly) or John Knox (@watchmanjohn), you would be correct but if you live in the northern hemisphere like me, you would be dead wrong as it happens in January. That's the dead of winter in Minnesota. Hmm...
The seasons have nothing to do with how close we are to the sun. It has to do with the tilt of the earth on it's axis yet every year school children are taught this fallacy by people who were taught the same fallacy. Thus this myth is perpetuated on to the next generation. We need to check our facts before presenting something as the truth.
However, teaching is more than just simply spitting out facts and figures. We also teach by example.
Paul addresses this issue in his epistle to Rome:
But if you call yourself a Jew, and rely on the law, and boast in God, and know his will, and approve the things that excel because you are instructed by the law, and are convinced that you yourself are a guide of the blind, a light for those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of little children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and of truth— you, then, who teach others, will you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who tell others not to commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law, by your breaking of the law you dishonor God! For as it is written, “On account of you the name of God is being blasphemed among the Gentiles.”
Romans 2:17-24 (MOUNCE)
We have the same problem today. We are quick to try to instruct others and dictate how they ought to live but are we following those same standards to the letter as well? Or are we guilty of teaching one life and living another? This is a very serious question. Our failure to do the latter causes non-Christians to believe that the Gospel is invalid simply because the way we live our lives does not reflect Christ.
As I am pondering the words I have just written, the times when I have damaged my testimony are coming to mind. I cannot undue what was done. I can only pray that their paths will cross with someone who reflects Christ better than I did at that particular moment. However, with God's help, I can change that. With His help, I can "practice what I preach" and instead of my life reflecting me, it will reflect Him.
May this song recorded by the late Keith Green in 1978 become the prayer of your heart.