I’ve often thought all of life is summed up in the latter half of Acts 1:1. Writing about Jesus, Luke opens with, “I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach.” Everything seems to fall into one category or the other, doing and teaching.
But it can be confusing when the two don’t sync. When the cop breaks the law, the advocate against drunk driving receives a DUI, the priest is a pedophile. They are teaching one thing but doing another.
And sometimes it works the other way: the bore tells a mesmerizing story, the distracted student receives the best grade in the class, the person you always thought cheap turns out to be the generous anonymous giver.
Everything Jesus did was in perfect alignment with what he said. And nothing he said was contradicted by what he did. His teaching on perfection was exemplified by his perfect life.
But for the rest of us, when the two come into conflict we put character over teaching. I think it was Teddy Roosevelt who said “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
On October 2, 1962, C. S. Lewis wrote to an American friend and shared his encounter with a member of the Seventh Day Adventist faith. It was a first for Lewis and he worked hard at trying to figure out what the SDA believed and how it differed from his own faith. He writes,
“I never could find out what the VIIth Day Adventists believe, tho’ I had a long talk with one the other day, a professor of electrical engineering from your country. I fear it is very mixed up with attempts to interpret the prophecies in the book of Daniel — not, to my mind, a very profitable undertaking. But he was a grand young chap, sweet as a nut and absolutely sincere. No fool, either.”1
It can be hard trying to understand someone with whom you have some things in common but whereas other things seem all mixed up. But it’s nice when you understand character better than their theology.
“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.” – 1 John 5:2.
- Walter Hooper, ed., The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963, Vol. III (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2007), 1375.