General George C. Marshall was a highly regarded soldier and statesman. He served in the U. S. Army under Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, as well as Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense under Truman.
Marshall was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for a plan aimed at the economic recovery of Western Europe after World War II.
However, before he rose to fame, Marshall was given command of the Infantry School at Fort Benning, GA. When he arrived, he found the post in a general state of disrepair.
Instead of issuing orders to the soldiers for specific improvements, Marshall began repairing, painting, and fixing up his own personal living quarters. When the other officers on his block saw what he was doing, they began working on their own quarters. Gradually, the rest of the soldiers, without a command being given, began to do the same thing. Soon, the entire fort was improved and brightened up.
Our word of the week, as well as the Miriam-Webster word of the day, is exemplary.
Webster defines exemplary as “deserving imitation…commendable…deserving imitation because of excellence…serving as a pattern…serving as an example.”
Webster further adds this insight into the derivation of the word.
Exemplary (and its close relatives example and exemplify) derives from the Latin noun exemplum (“example”). When exemplary describes something as “excellent,” it almost always carries the further suggestion that the thing described is worthy of imitation.
Although God’s Word is powerful, the Bible also teaches the importance and power of a good example. Peter put it this way.
“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (1 Pet 2:21)
Deity descended from heaven to take on humanity, not only to show us God, and to die as a sacrifice for our sins, but to provide for us a perfect example.
Jesus lived an exemplary life beginning with his obedience to his parents at age 12 but also engaging in “the Father’s business” (Lk. 2:52.) For the next 18 years, he labored in the obscurity of the carpenter’s shop in the lowly village of Nazareth, a town held in disrepute. Finally, at age 30 Jesus humbly began His ministry by submitting to John’s baptism, “to fulfill all righteousness (Matt. 3:15).
The biographical accounts of Jesus portray an exemplary life of purity. Honor. Honesty. Sincerity. Submission. And sacrifice.
His teaching began with a message extolling meekness, humility, and righteousness. It called for treating others with respect, kindness, and consideration. And it challenged His listeners to a life with nobler motives, higher values, and greater goals. He challenged His disciples to be “the light of the world,” and “the salt of the earth.
Then He began ministry practicing what He preached. He treated sinners with respect. Exercised patience with the apostles. Handled critics with wisdom. Displayed courage when threatened. Demonstrated restraint when tempted. Revealed the character of the Father. And modeled the two great commandments to love God and love your neighbor (Matt 22:37-40).
Jesus’ exemplary life, however, is not just to be read, studied, and admired, but one to be followed. Imitated. And duplicated.
“Follow Me,” he said to the first disciples, and He says to us today. “Christian” is more than a name to be worn, but a life to be lived. An example to emulate. And a character that ought to issue itself in conduct that is Christ-like.
In this regard, the apostle Paul urged his readers, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). So he exhorted Timothy to “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). Good advice, not just for young preachers, but all people.
Charles Spurgeon was right when he wrote, “A man’s life is always more forcible than his speech. When men take stock of him they reckon his deeds as dollars and his words as pennies. If his life and doctrine disagree the mass of onlookers accept his practice and reject his preaching.”
Exemplary ought to characterize our conduct in the home, our principles in the workplace, our treatment of our friends, and our love of the brethren. It even extends to our posts on social media. And the words we say and write.
Today, this week, and this month, can others with whom you interact admire, appreciate, and imitate your exemplary manner of life?
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman