It is hard to believe that we are stepping into September. It seems like last weekend was Memorial Day Weekend. Many, if not all of our young people have returned to the classroom.
As many of you know, I have a degree in Elementary Education from Slippery Rock University. I clearly remember my Methods courses, classes that teach teachers how to teach various subjects. The teacher quickly learns that not everyone is receptive to one style of teaching. In fact, there are seven learning styles.
The Seven Learning Styles
Visual (spatial): You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding
Aural (auditory-musical): You prefer using sound and music
Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing
Physical (kinesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch
Logical (mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems
Social (interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people
Solitary (intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study
What style best fits you?
Today one does not need a textbook to learn. You can simply go to your computer and find your way to YouTube, and there you will find how to do any number of things. Chances are, someone out there has recorded a video that will give you step-by-step instruction on solving the issue.
Someone, somewhere has created a video to show you how to do what you’re about to attempt; whether it’s a repair for your home or your car, how to put on makeup, learning self-defense or making dinner. All you need to do is look it up on the world’s most popular video site, and soon you’ll be an expert yourself—even if it’s expertise on the best way to massage your pet opossum (because, apparently, opossums need massages—something else you can only learn on YouTube!).
Apparently, you can also learn how to drive via YouTube. That’s what an 8-year-old boy in Ohio did on one recent Sunday night. The young innovator had a problem: mom and dad had fallen asleep early, and the boy and his 4-year-old sister were craving some McDonald’s.
The golden arches were a mile and a half away—too far for a walk in the dark. So the boy did what any self-respecting Gen-Z kid would do when confronted with a conundrum, he looked up “how to drive a car” on YouTube, emptied his piggy bank, then bundled his sister into the car and headed out for a cheeseburger.
Police said later that the boy obeyed all the traffic laws, didn’t hit a single thing, and drove “effortlessly” through town as though he had been driving for years—all because he watched a few minutes of video instruction and then did precisely what it said to do.
There are millions of these tutorial videos, most produced by average people who have learned a skill and simply want to share it. Of course, all this instruction depends on the viewer’s willingness to experiment and put the information into practice. Without that, it’s just another internet time-waster.
The same is true of our faith. James’s Epistle reads like a series of random tutorial videos on the Christian life. The author of the epistle made it very clear that no amount of instruction matters unless it is put into practice. James wanted the church to become experts, not only in hearing the instruction, but doing the instruction as well.
James instructs his brothers and sisters, “Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.” It’s tempting to give into anger, revenge and nasty words, isn’t it.
Faithfulness puts the word into demonstrable and visible action. So how does that word get activated in one’s life? James says that you have to practice it. “But be doers of the word and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.”
The purpose of receiving instruction, receiving the “word of truth,” is to put the information into practice. If, say, I watched a YouTube video on how to fix a leaky faucet but never pull out the tools and get to work putting what I’ve learned to good use, then I will still be stuck with a constant drip. If I really want to fix the problem, I need to set my smartphone next to the sink and follow along step by step with the video. On the other hand, if I just watch the video and say, “Yeah, I’ll get back to that sometime,” I’ll quickly forget everything I’ve learned.
James says the same thing happens when we only hear the word of God and don’t put it into practice. It’s one thing to conceptualize the process and quite another to execute it.
The same is true for real “religion,” says James. It’s not simply about running at the mouth and declaring one’s faith as a matter of intellectual belief; nor is it about lashing out at those who might be challenging you.
Religion that is “pure and undefiled before God” is religion that is demonstrated in practice—practice that comes as second nature to those who have internalized the word of truth. It is religion, in other words, that uses the model of Jesus for both its belief and its practice.
There are some things YouTube just can’t teach. It can’t teach you how to be a follower of Jesus. Oh, sure, it can teach you the principles of discipleship, but to really learn it, you have to have someone live it out in front of you and guide you along the way. Information alone won’t get it; it takes imitation as well. That’s why we need a community of faith to guide us and give us examples for putting the word into practice.
In a culture where there is plenty of social upheaval, we must see the opportunity to be shining stars that reflect God’s glory, rather than lash out in fear or join in the culture’s calamity. We shine most brightly when we are doing the Word of God in a way that causes others to see us and want to be instructed in how to do the same.
As we begin this new season, I pray you will join our community of faith where we learn together the principles of what it means to be a Christian. But more than that, we put what we learn into action.
An 8-year-old learned to drive perfectly by watching a tutorial video and then grabbing the keys. All the motivation he needed was found in the prospect of a Happy Meal.
Would we be able to prove that we are Christian? As the old saying goes: “If you were arrested for being a Christian… would there be enough evidence to convict you?"
May we be motivated to take the instruction we have been given by the word of truth, put it into practice, and then head out to an even greater destination.
“But be doers of the word and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.”