Love as I Say, Love as I Do

Josh Poteet - Lead Pastor | 180 Life Church - West Hartford, CT

Before I ever sat behind the wheel, I had observed several rules for driving from my father.  I learned that you could drive 9mph above the speed limit without fear of consequence, that stop signs were only necessary when cars were nearby, and that yellow lights meant hit the gas.  When I first started driving, it was my dad sitting in the passenger seat and as I drove the first few times, my father noticed these tendencies in me and challenged me to stop these unsafe behaviors.  When I told him where I had learned these “rules of the road,” he laughed and said, “do as I say, not as I do.”


This is a phrase that many have heard that has left us confused about what discipleship actually is meant to be. It’s a phrase that declares a knowledge of right with an exemption for the further along.  It’s a declaration that divorces message from practice leaving many who hear confused.  The tragedy is that this statement is the breeding ground for biblical confusion, is in direct opposition to Jesus’ model of discipleship and undermines those who are meant to lead. If we are to intentionally disciple people in our lives, we cannot attempt to lead people to places that we will not go.  Instead, we must invite them to where we have already traveled.


Intentional modeling is the bedrock of discipleship.  Paul says it this way: “Imitate me, just as I imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).” Paul doesn’t ask those that he leads to travel alone to a place he describes yet has never been. Instead, he is inviting them to the place that he already is.  Parents this should hit home for us because the way we live our lives can undermine the expectations that we set for our households.  Joshua didn’t say, “as for my house, they will serve the Lord.” This wasn’t an external expectation, but an internal invitation.  Joshua was already living it out and he had a healthy, biblical expectation that his family would follow where he led (as for ME and MY house, WE will serve the Lord – Joshua 24:15).  The point is simple, discipleship is a radical shift from “do as I say and not as I do” to something quite different.  


Undermining leadership is only the tip of the iceberg.  The problem isn’t simply that you’re not modeling a healthy expectation but that your unwillingness to follow Jesus is likely to prevent you from challenging others to grow in those areas.  Think about it. If I didn’t spend time with Jesus this morning, I’m less likely to ask you how your time with Jesus was because I don’t want the question to return to sender.  If I am not tithing, then I am highly unlikely to lead others to tithe.  If I don’t intentionally enjoy sabbath rest, I am far less likely to invite you into a rest that only Jesus can provide.  Discipleship is founded, not on knowing the right answer, but in creating a lifestyle of deep love for Jesus and inviting others to join in.


Jesus’ model for discipleship is in direct contradiction to “do as I say, not as I do.” Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love.  If you keep my commands you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you (John 15:9-12).” Do you see the shift? Jesus’ command is this, “Love as I say, love as I do.”  There is no separation in what Jesus expects from what He models for us.  Instead, He allows His life (and death) to show us the way as we disciple others.


To be clear, the expectation is not perfection.  None (excluding Jesus) would disciple if that were the case. Even our failures are opportunities to model intentionally to those we disciple.  We are able to model humility, ownership, a willingness to seek forgiveness, and a love for Jesus that overcomes our brokenness.  People need to see that stuff too.  The Kingdom needs more men and women who are willing to follow Jesus and invite others into their journey.


Josh Poteet
Lead Pastor
180 Life Church
West Hartford, CT