Sometimes the best lessons come from the worst examples. Maybe you had a parent who disciplined out of anger. Or a pastor who wielded his Bible like a billy club. Or a boss who abused his or her authority.
It’s easy to dismiss lousy leaders as incompetent, arrogant, or uncaring—and unworthy of our attention. But it’s hard to examine their flaws and failures so as to apply their bad example to our own lives.
The Bible often makes good use of a bad example. Scripture records the failings of many—not like some grocery tabloid would—but to show us why we should make good choices (1 Cor. 10:6).
The Apostle John took up his pen and wrote for us 5 good lessons from a bad example.
Thankfully, these are 5 lessons we don’t have to learn the hard way.
As a teenager, I knew everything. You could even say I was omniscient. I marveled at the incompetence of adults on the simplest issues. They just didn’t get it.
And then I grew up, and something strange happened. I discovered that as an omniscient person, I still had a lot to learn.
So many times I stood so sure of myself only to discover how woefully ignorant I was.
- I knew a lot about the Bible until I went to seminary. It turns out, the more I learned, the less I knew.
- I knew everything about marriage until I got married. But matrimony is course in art, not science. I’ll be learning for the rest of my life.
- I was an expert on parenting until I had kids. Parenting offers a long course of study on your own selfishness.
I’ve learned a lot since I became omniscient. But you know where that omniscient teenager resurfaces the most in my life? The same place it shows itself in your life.
When we’re talking to God.
I have a friend named Brad who made the front page of the paper, because he almost drowned. His rescue was extraordinary.
He set out with a small raft and his bike, intending to make his way to a nearby lake. As he walked through the woods toward the lake, there was nowhere to walk except through sludge. He eventually abandoned his bike and boat.
And when it got dark, Brad got lost.
He slogged through the darkness only to find himself eventually floating in the middle of Lake Lewisville. Being as skinny as a rail with zero body fat (what’s that like?), he was soon on the brink of hypothermia.
Brad told me he had always been one never to ask for help. And yet, in this crisis, he screamed at the top of his lungs: “Oh my God! Please help me!”
You know how he was he rescued?
Finger pointing is hard-wired into our hearts.
In fact, it started early in human history. Like, really early.
(Painting by Domenichino. Public domain)
In the Garden of Eden, God confronted Adam and Eve after they sinned, and their reaction set the course for an entire race of blame-shifters.
We’re still shifting the blame (and getting blamed).
The solution is the same today as it was then.
You can live better than your parents did. Or you can live worse. It’s true.
Growing up in a godly home is no guarantee you’ll follow God. But it’s also true that a godless home doesn’t doom you to a failed life.
I know of one young man who had as his goal to be a better father than his father was to him. And he did it.
But then he realized that wasn’t enough.
Being better than your parents is doable, sure, but it’s the wrong goal.
Everybody sins. But when we Christians do it, reactions vary.
The world points to us as hypocrites—and often uses our sins as justification for their own. Other Christians tend to view our sins as reasons to suggest we aren’t even saved.
(Photo by Bigroger27509. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
But the people who offer the most brutal judgment against our sins?
Very often, it’s ourselves.
That’s because Christians struggling with sin tend to believe four lies.
I pulled up behind a line of cars at a stoplight, and a guy on a skateboard whizzed past me. Like fast.
He held his arms above his head and swayed back and forth, leaning into each turn and showing his skills to those of us stopped at the light.
As he approached the intersection, he leaned to turn in the direction of the oncoming traffic but his skateboard fell out from under him. He and his skateboard (and his skills) flew into the middle of the intersection where the traffic zoomed both directions—toward him!
A large van swerved to miss the guy and hit his skateboard, bending it and sending it spiraling twenty feet in the air. After ten seconds of screeching tires, scrambling feet, and lots of yelling, Mr. Center-of-Attention grabbed his skateboard and limped off to hide somewhere.
It was the most entertainment I ever had at a stoplight.
And it made me think of life in general.
Anger often stems from unmet “needs,” such as a desire for respect, admiration, or affirmation.
There must be a balance between legitimate needs and codependency. One major way we attempt to have these needs met is by trying to control others. The Bible gives the better alternative—freedom in choices and freedom from dependencies.
I recommend The Anger Workbook by Les Carter, an essential resource used in this series.
Part 3 – “Good and Angry” – Selected Scripture
Podcast: Play in new window
More than 100 years ago, the RMS Titanic hit an iceberg just before midnight, sending it to the bottom of the North Atlantic in the early hours of April 15, 1912.
(Photo: Titanic at the docks of Southampton, 1912. Public Domain.)
The re-release of the blockbuster movie in 3-D has resurfaced tremendous interest in the ill-fated vessel. With the exception of Noah’s Ark, the Titanic has intrigued more people than any other vessel in history.
Experts of its day hailed this “ship of dreams” as “practically unsinkable.” One seaman even went so far as to say: “God Himself couldn’t sink this ship!” Thomas Andrews, one of the Titanic’s designers, boasted: “The ship is as perfect as human brains can make.”
That’s why the morning after the sinking most people refused to believe the “unsinkable” had sunk. Even the Wall Street Journal printed an optimistic report: