“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).
These words were spoken to Timothy, by his mentor, Paul. Timothy had been called to evangelize and preach the Gospel in a critical time in the early Church.
By these words, we can guess that, sometimes, Timothy felt his youth might be a stumbling block to those whom he was trying to reach. Maybe he felt inadequate, that he didn’t know enough or have enough experience to do his job.
Either way, Paul’s encouragement to Timothy was clear:
Your age or your experiences do not stop you from setting an example to those around you.
As a young woman, I have struggled with insecurities over my age and my ability to reach people with a message of life and I am sure there are many youth who feel the same way, who struggle to find the courage or the authority to speak up about difficult issues. For me, and for them, Paul’s words can be extremely encouraging. Paul reminded Timothy that, despite his youth (or maybe because of it), he was in a unique position to make a difference, by setting an example in his words and actions.
The amazing thing is that we are in the same position! We can be a witness to the world around us by simply living the lives God has called us to live. By doing so, we show the world there is a reason to be For Life, that there is something different and good about it.
But this doesn’t only apply to youth! While Paul was directly addressing Timothy’s fears about his youth, the second half of the verse applies to all of us and tells us how we can make a difference: by setting an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
We can set an example in speech by speaking the truth in love when the situation calls for it—maybe as a sidewalk counselor or a pastor, maybe simply a conversation with a coworker or another student at your school. Failing to speak may be seen as affirmation, but we can set an example and be a witness simply by telling the truth and calling wrong things wrong.
We can set an example in conduct by serving our community, by living out our faith in our own lives. In doing so, we can challenge the stereotypical image of a hypocritical Christian that so many people see when they think of us. We can show that behind our words are actions, done to show love to each other and give honor and glory to God.
We can set an example in love by showing love for our neighbor, compassion for those in need, and forgiveness for those who have made mistakes in the past. No sin is too great for God to forgive and we have the awesome opportunity to share this love and forgiveness with others, especially those who have a sin against life in their past.
We can set an example in faith by spending time building our relationship with Christ and letting Him live through us. Too often we trust the solutions of the world instead of the promises of God, but by trusting Him at His Word, we can show those around us what true faith looks like.
Finally, we can set an example in purity by honoring God’s plan for sexuality and relationships. For those of us who are single, we do this by living a pure and chaste life and not being ashamed of it. This can be a daily challenge and struggle but, by living differently, we show others how different, and wonderful, love in Christ can be!
We don’t have to have a wealth of life experience to make a difference For Life. All we need is to set an example for a world that has looked to death for far too long. We can be the example that points them to life and the One who created it.
Laura Davis is the director of Y4Life.