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Do you remember a time when someone taught you something new and exciting? In the holidays we spent some time away with friends in Canberra. The highlight of the trip was the chance to do heaps of mountain biking with all the kids. As part of that I was introduced to the concept of downhill trail riding, which was a completely new experience for me. Whilst I’ve done plenty of riding, I’ve never targeted specific downhill trails designed to be fast and slightly terrifying! One such venue outside Canberra is so committed to the downhill concept they actually shuttle you to the top of the mountain in a minibus with your bikes on a trailer, so you don’t have to ride uphill at all! Wow! This was a whole new world of opportunity. Imagine getting all the fun associated with riding downhill fast, without all the legwork of riding to the top of the hill in the first place!
As a relative novice at downhill riding, I was pretty cautious at first. The fear of falling and losing half my face or legs to gravel rash was real! However, there’s nothing like being overtaken by an 8 year old to stir up some courage! In fact, it was watching a couple of 8 year olds, and those around me that helped encourage, teach and inspire me with my own riding. Afterall, we learn by watching others, whether we realise it or not.
The concept of others learning through our own modeled behaviours is not lost on me, and I am painfully aware of how far and wide that stretches in my own life. For example, my own kids are learning from me all the time. This includes when I am teaching them specific skills like kicking a soccer ball or rocket making, but it also includes when they are observing my everyday behaviours and watching how I treat others. My kids watch and hear everything! They learn from how I speak to them. They learn from how I talk to my wife and my friends, they even learn from how I treat that rude person in traffic! They are always watching and learning, whether we care to acknowledge that or not. Modeled behaviours are a powerful teaching tool that stretches far beyond the classroom.
What I love about the life of Jesus is that he was all about showing us the best way to live, not just telling us. God seemed to know that if we could see the Word of God in action through the life of Jesus here on Earth, we might better understand how God wants us to live and treat each other. Jesus was an educated man who knew the law inside and out, but his most powerful teaching moments came through his actions. Time after time, Jesus’ interactions with others showed grace, forgiveness, compassion, generosity and kindness; not condemnation and judgement that some often associate with the broader church. It’s hard to read about the life of Jesus and not be stirred to action. Jesus calls us to follow his example and go and treat others the same, not just in our words but by our actions.
Whatever your life looks like at the moment, be greatly encouraged that you have the ability to model the life of Jesus and bring heaven to earth for someone today. It could be as simple as an act of patience at the supermarket, buying someone a coffee, an encouraging word to your kids or taking time to show someone how to ride down a mountain! We are all teachers, and all responsible for raising this generation of young people as best we can. Let’s be challenged to centre our teaching around kindness, generosity, compassion and respect; and in doing so model the greatest teacher of all.