Years ago, when my family and I were avid baseball fans, we saw one of our favorite players on TV being interviewed. This particular ball player always seemed to me to be a fine young man, and I thought rather highly of him. As the interviewer began to comment on the fact that millions of kids around the world admired and looked up to him, I heard this baseball player state flatly, "I don't want to be a role model." I can still remember how my heart sank at those words from his lips, especially since my sons heard them, too. And the disappointment that my whole family felt at this man's revelation was undeniable.
I still think of this ball player's statement whenever I hear fellow believers say that they don't care to be a role model for others. Is this attitude scriptural? Absolutely not. As Christians, we are called to set an example for other believers, as well as for the unsaved. When Jesus gave the Great Commission to His disciples, He meant it to be extended to all those who would follow them, including all Christians on this earth today. How can we expect to impact the lives of others, if they don't see a distinct difference between us and those who don't know the Lord? People are looking for someone to respect and look up to. Even those who seem hostile to our Christian witness often have a desire deep within them to see us walk in integrity. While some folks will long to see us fall, many more will long to see us succeed. And they will be watching us closely. Our progress, or our backsliding, will be very evident to them, and to everyone else around us. We're not looking to be an idol or a savior to anyone, but to be "living epistles read of all men"--an inspiration and encouragement to others in a cold and hostile world. I especially like the way the Message Bible translates the apostle Paul's words here: "Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you." (2 Corinthians 3:2 MSG)
I've had a Christian fish symbol on the back of my car for years. It reminds me that I have to answer to the Lord for the way I drive. Many times, when I'm tempted to go a little faster than I should, or to try to get ahead of another driver, I remember that this little symbol on my car can be seen by those around me, and I think twice before I do something that might hurt my witness. Some believers don't want a Christian symbol on their car, because they don't want other drivers scrutinizing how they drive. They feel that if they remain "undercover," they won't have to worry about others watching their behavior too closely. But as the Bible makes it clear, God's people ARE called to set an example, and to be role models wherever they go. Scripture says, "In everything set them an example by doing what is good." (Titus 2:7 NIV) And why is this so important? "So that in every way, [we] will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive." (Titus 2:10 NIV) One of the reasons why God holds us to such high standards, is that He knows that our less-than-Christlike behavior can seriously hinder His work on this earth. Whether we want to be role models or not, the simple truth is that we help decide how those around us will respond to the Gospel message.
Paul wrote, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." (1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV) Can you imagine the impact that Christians would have on their families, their communities, and the world, if they adopted Paul's attitude? Don't shy away from being an example and a role model to others. If you are a follower of Christ, the Spirit of the living God dwells on the inside of you, and if you will cooperate with Him, He will empower you to "walk as Jesus did," so that you can be an effective witness for His glory. (1 John 2:6) Today, may we take to heart Paul's instructions to us--"Live a lover's life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of"! (Philippians 1:10 MSG)
Prayer: Lord, forgive me for the times I've shied away from setting a Christlike example for others. I offer You my whole self today, and I ask that You empower me by Your Spirit to "set an example" for others "in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity." (1 Timothy 4:12 NIV) Help me to do my part by devoting myself to prayer and the study of Your Word. Thank You, Lord, that as I rise to the challenge of being an example to others, You will use me in mighty ways for Your glory!
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