Set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity…… Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Timothy 4:12-16
To some of the older readers, WYSIWYG is an acronym that may be familiar. To the younger generation, not so much. It means What You See is What You Get. It came from the earlier days of internet world, and was used to describe the computer code so that the content you see on a web page (print and graphics) would be in a form closely resembling its appearance when printed or displayed on the screen of your computer. It was also used in word processing back in the late 1980’s. What’s interesting is that it has a spiritual counterpart: lifestyle Christianity, where the lifestyle of the individual is consistent with his faith walk, or WYSIWYG.
The passage above comes from 1 Timothy 3 where Paul provides a checklist of what an Elder is supposed to “look” like. It always struck me that the criteria listed by Paul for being an Elder has nothing to do with accomplishments, education or awards. They criteria have everything to do with a person’s character, his reputation and his life. Reputations are important, an often it only takes one bad action to ruin it. We are told in Proverbs 22 that “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. Rich and poor have this in common.” At the end of 1 Timothy 3, Paul goes on to exhort the young Timothy “to watch his life and doctrine carefully” so that “everyone will see your progress.” I have always loved that verse – we are not directed to be perfect, because that isn’t possible. But we are to live our lives in such a way so that others can see our progress. That’s an achievable goal. If one’s life is reflective of his inner values, then WYSIWYG applies. Over time, if that wasn’t the case, others would notice and see the imperfections. We might not think so, but others see our faults, sometimes better than we do. We either don’t see them (which is a blind spot), or we ignore them, which is a conscious decision.
Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets, sums it up this way: “Kids don’t learn from what you try to teach them. They learn from who you are.” Your children and friends can easily see if your conduct is consistent with your values. Put another way, you have to do more than “talk the talk” of Christianity, but you have to “walk the walk” as well. Sadly, I have observed a lot of Christians over the years who are quick to spout Christian platitudes, but whose conduct in life sends an entirely different message to others.
One small anecdote using the symbol of the sign of the fish. Many people often put the symbol on their cars to identify themselves as followers of Christ. I was always reticent to put one on my car for fear, as the wife of my pastor once said, “of giving fish a bad name.” What she was suggesting was that you have identified yourself as a follower of Christ, you have identified yourself as one who obeys all law, including traffic laws. So, if you are seen speeding or running stop signs, people will take note. Not that I speed or run stop signs, but I never wanted my driving habits to be the basis of my witness to others. What you do has to reflect who you are, and there is a disconnect if you identify yourself as a Christian and then do very un-Christian things. That’s what WYSIWIG is – where your life is consistent with your faith in everything you do.
WYSIWYG raises the bar of our lifestyle, because we are told that our life should not cause another to stumble. If what we do turns off someone from coming to faith, the consequences are, shall we say, not good according to several passages in Matthew (Matthew 5:29 and 18:6-8).
In the mentoring context, one of the things a mentor can do is to aid his mentee in seeing the blind spots in his life, or even help areas where he is failing but is looking the other way because he has rationalized his conduct. It’s the area of mentoring I refer to as identifying obstacles which would keep your mentee from achieving his or her goals. I also refer to as helping the mentee get rid of the “junk in the trunk” or, in the African world, “junk in the boot.” I had to come up with the latter phrase because in the part of the world that has European roots (from British or French colonization), they refer to the “trunk” of a car as a “boot”. It was only when I used the boot that my metaphor made sense to my audience.
Basically, it’s the stuff that we haul around, sometimes unknowingly. I call it “freeing up” and I describe the process this way: Identifying things that are holding the protégé back from achieving a vision. This takes time to explore a person’s history, areas of life, and life experiences. It may identify areas due to bondage of past circumstances, unhealed wounds, spiritual wanderings. A mentor can serve a valuable purpose in another’s life just by helping him identify areas of his life that are holding him or her back.
So, how does one develop a good name or reputation? Put another way, how can you become a person who is described as WYSIWYG? It takes living a consistent lifestyle that others see and want to emulate or copy. It means that your actions and speech are consistent with your values. That’s not to say that you can be perfect – in fact, we know that everyone falls short in one way or another, which is one of the driving reasons we need Jesus in our life. Failing in life with the humility to acknowledge it and repent is the hallmark of a Christian lifestyle.
Our challenge is clear: if we want others to be able to describe us as WYSIWYG, we have to be able to have our own lives stand scrutiny. A mentor can be that trusted person who can hold us accountable for our actions. In this context, the “mentor” is not always someone older, but can be a peer, just like the group of three men I have been meeting with for the past 24 years. Personal accountability to another is often missing in our culture, yet it is a biblical imperative. It is not optional. We are to give account to one another (see James 5:16), and ultimately, give account of our actions on that last day when we stand before our Lord (Romans 14:12). If you don’t have someone in your life (mentor or accountability partner), you are probably a train wreck waiting to happen. Seek one today – it is important that we have one another in our lives.
FURTHER STUDY: Passages to consider and reflect: James 5:16, where Paul exhorts us to confess our sins to one another. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=james+5%3A16&version=NIV Colossians 3:6 has a similar “one another” where it says we are to teach and admonish one another. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Colossians+3%3A16&version=NIV Romans 14:12 is also important because “each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.” https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+14:12&version=NIV
WORSHIP: In order to be WYSIWYG, one has to be grounded and have a solid foundation anchored in Christ. Listen to Hillsong’s Cornerstone which addresses this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bV3rYXc152E
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