This is how I learned math.
Mary has 3 apples. Bob has 4 apples. How many apples do they have together?
Examples make an abstract thing practical, and for some reason they make understanding the abstract more possible.
As Christians, we still learn by example.
Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. 2 Timothy 2:3-7
In this passage, Paul employs the imagery (and example) of the soldier, athlete, and farmer. These three occupations are used as a means to living a better Christian life. He extracts the idea of a soldier aiming to please his commanding officer, an athlete training to compete for a crown, and a farmer’s diligence in the fields and infuses them into the idea of Christian living. The abstract idea of Christian life is made more real by these examples.
But what about the examples themselves? We treat them as a means to our end, but we never acknowledge the examples as ends themselves. Consequently, we are susceptible to consider Christianity in terms of something else. The soldier “does” what a soldier does. The athlete “does” what an athlete does. The farmer “does” what a farmer does. What does it mean for the Christian to “do” what a Christian does? What does a Christian “do”?
The Christian life is an abstract idea, and we’re just trying to figure out what it actually looks like. And my Chemistry professor during my freshman year was convinced he solved the mystery of the Trinity via example of the material phases of water. “Father, Spirit, and Holy Ghost? Well, there’s Solid, Liquid, and Gas. So there you have it. Go and tell your Theology professors that.”