“Virtuous deeds,” wrote Plutarch, “implant in those who search them out a great and zealous eagerness which leads to imitation” (Life of Pericles 1.4). Although he was by no means a Christian, Plutarch’s words resonate with the words of Scripture, particularly the cry of the psalmist in the opening verses of Psalm 119:
“Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord!
Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
who seek him with their whole heart,
who also do no wrong,
but walk in his ways!
You have commanded your precepts
to be kept diligently.
Oh that my ways may be steadfast
in keeping your statutes!” (Psalm 119:1-5).
What was the psalmist’s “inciting moment” of his journey with the Word of God? What triggered that thirst in his soul for God’s Word? It was not merely his reading of it, but his seeing it incarnated in the lives of others. He saw the action of these people: they walked in the law of the Lord. He saw their passion: they sought him with their whole heart. And most of all he saw their blessedness. It was the example of these people that compelled the psalmist to cry, “Oh that my way may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!”
As Christians, we have a powerful resource at our disposal. It is the same resource that Plutarch said “implant[s] in those who search them out a great and zealous eagerness which leads to imitation.” It is powerful because it does not merely coerce from the outside: it inspires from within. It is the power of example. It is the power of a life consistently and earnestly following God’s Word.