The Latin word “Exemplo” is very much like the English word “Example”. Basically put, I believe we are being called to be “examples of the living Christ”.

As we try to obey the “great commandment” to go and make disciples, I often wonder what this means and how we can achieve this ? Are we all supposed to pack up and go ? Are we all to become missionaries to <fill in the country of your choice> ? Or can we be missionaries for Christ where we live ? And if so, how are we to do this ?

There are multiple Bible references that call us to be different from the culture we live in. A quick perusing of the Scriptures gives us the following directions

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. “ (Matt 5:13-16)

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Eph 5:1-2)

“Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” (Phil 2:14-15)

“Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 Jn 2:4-6)

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Col 3:5-10)

“Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1Pe 2:12)

And I am sure you can find many, many more.

I can hear the initial reaction that this all sounds too much as “faith by works”. Does this mean we can earn our salvation by obeying these rules ?

Far from it. I believe works are a result of our faith. As James puts it

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. (Jas 1:22-23)

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (Jas 2:14-17)

Or John makes it even more clear in 1John, probably my favorite book of the whole New Testament.

“If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” (1Jn 1:6)

I am sure the readers of this blog have heard, read and discussed these passages before. And I want to re-emphasize that none of these indicate “faith by works”. But all of them do put in a stark light that we have “works by faith”. We show our Christian love towards others by doing things. Not because these actions guarantee our justification with God. As Paul and John point out

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” And “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”(Ro 3:10-12, 23)

“If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 Jn 1:10)

So we know we are being called to be different, that we are being called to follow the example Christ set for us and yet we know we will always fall short of that perfect example.

I fully realize I fall short of this every single day. When I am impatient with my spouse, when I am too harsh on my children, when I treat a colleague not quite the way Christ is calling me. This is what it means to be a sinner. So am I hopelessly doomed ? This is where Grace abounds.

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:6-8)

I believe that is the essence of the Gospel, the “Good News”. That God has created us and is calling us to live in “His image”. Yet we turned away and are continuously falling short of what He intends us to be. In His grace He has offered us His son as propitiation for our sins, so we may be justified in His eyes and reconciled to Him; we continue to grow with the help of the Spirit and grow in our sanctification during this life, yet will never reach perfection; and by accepting Christ as our Lord and Savior we will eventually be glorified at His second coming.

We will never be perfect in this life, yet in our true faith in Christ, the Spirit will call us out to be an example of Christ and lead others to Him. This is something we can do here and now.

I sometimes wonder how much we would change the world if we all would do this in our neighborhoods, work and other social settings. I think we’d be obeying the great commandment more than we ever can imagine.

We can be “Exemplo for χ ρ” in everything we do !

χ ρ are the Greek letters for Chi and Ro, used since antiquity to designate Christos. Jesus the Christ