A few years ago I saw a plaque in my sister’s home with a quotation from Catherine Aird, which says: “If you can’t be a good example you’ll just have to serve as a horrible warning.” My brother-in-law said she got for him (that’s not true), but it is a true statement; in fact, it’s a biblical statement. We have something to learn from everyone, but it’s not always positive. Sometimes we see people we should look up to and emulate. I need to be a lot more like many of the people in my life. Then there are the other kinds of people we should learn from; people we should take notice of for a different reason. The lessons they teach are no less valuable to us. The books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes lay out the dramatic contrast between the lessons learned by observing the wise and by observing the fool.
We should not only learn from everyone, positively or negatively, we should remember that we too are all teachers as well. We teach with our words and with our lives. If we are genuine Christians, we both heard and saw the gospel. In those cases, the gospel is adorned by the lives of godly people. However, in some cases, the gospel is marred by the lives of those who profess it. God’s words and God’s works do not contradict one another, and neither should ours.