Influence. Presentation. Being a role model. There are a lot of words and phrases closely related to “example.” My mom and others have told me countless times: “People are watching you whether you know it or not.” You might not know who it is, but you need to know that you’re being watched by someone, being an example to someone all the time. Your words, your actions, your friend groups, they’re most likely being watched, especially in the age of rampant technology. Something you’re doing is probably encouraging someone to act the same way. You’re most likely being imitated. It could be children or peers or people older than you. Either way, you need to know your example is powerful, no matter who you are.
Example is almost everything. Even Paul said “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). It’s only almost everything because God’s glory is everything. Being like Christ is everything. It’s only a stepping stone to showing God’s glory, but it’s one of the most powerful ones out there.
Especially recently I’ve seen many, many posts on Facebook and Twitter about how disappointed parents are in celebrities for being bad examples or role models for their children, fans are disappointed because well-known people have gone back on their word publicly, how they don’t like someone’s actions because these actions don’t reflect what they have said they stand for. It’s difficult to stay consistent outside of the spotlight, and I suspect even more so when you literally have cameras following you around constantly. So when these people mess up, they get criticized, bashed, and they lose people’s trust.
But that’s just it. It’s all because their actions don’t reflect their words. Which is something every single person on this earth has been guilty of at some point (Romans 3:23). But, it’s not OK to throw our hands up and move on exactly the way we’ve been living, using this verse as an excuse to do what we want and act how we want. In order to be a positive example, we have to repent of this and fight every day, being careful about what we say and what we do – it can turn into blatant hypocrisy if we’re not diligent. That’s not appealing to Christians or the world, and it’s especially hated by God (Matthew 23 covers this topic fairly extensively). No one can be a positive example or influence, and certainly aren’t doing themselves any good, if their actions don’t match up with their words (Matthew 12:33-37). Friends, if we want to be good examples for other people, especially if we’re Christians, we need to match our actions up to our words. It should never be a “do as I say, not do as I do” situation. Consistency, continuity, and unity in our actions and words are more important than many people like to believe.
Even if our words and actions do line up, and we’re saying and doing things that aren’t right or excusable, people are watching. People see what you say and do: your peers, your church, your family, people in the world. I Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be deceived: bad company ruins good morals.” Most of the time, this verse is used to warn against the people we hang out with and spend our time around. But what about being bad company? It could be worse if we’re the people who are ruining good morals for other people. People can be easily influenced, which is why Romans 14:13-23 says to “decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” If something we’re doing is going to cause another to sin or even just discourage that person in some way, then we aren’t doing what’s right. Do you really want to be the downfall of another person, another soul?
I do want to emphasize the positives because this post isn’t meant to be harsh or judgmental; it’s meant to be an encouragement, to make you think. There are so many good and right things we can be doing with our example that won’t cause others to be discouraged. I talked some about this in my post called The Thing About Social Media, but, especially if we’re Christians, we can be using our social media accounts to bring others to Christ, not only in the words we write, and the links we share, but also in the way we live and portray that to others. We can share as many Christ-focused articles and Bible verses we want, we can talk about how much we love God and want to be like Christ, but if our pictures and “likes” and attitudes don’t line up with that, we’re only being a negative example because we aren’t truly living it.
The greater power and influence you have, the greater responsibility to follow through and make a positive impact on the world. If we know there could be people watching us, if we know there could be focused attention on us, even if it’s just one person, how much more of an opportunity to show them a good example!
But you can be a good example even without this earthly power. The most humble people in the Bible were the greatest influences – Ruth, for example. She wasn’t a queen, she didn’t think she was someone who had all eyes on her, but she was determined to live the way she should, showing kindness to her mother-in-law after they had lost some of the people dearest to them. When everyone else left Naomi, Ruth stayed at her side. And Boaz noticed ( Ruth 2:11 & 3:11). Someone watched her, and told Boaz. He wanted to be associated with such a “worthy woman,” and eventually they were married. Your example is that much more powerful if your character is what makes people want to associate with you.
Be like Christ.
You can take your example and help someone. If others see you legitimately living as a good person, an encourager, a helper, it’s going to be so much easier to gain friends and gain souls for the kingdom! No one wants to be part of a church or a group of people if they don’t see them spending their time differently than the world; if they want to act like the world, they’ll just continue to be part of the world. A friend once said “Don’t look like the world because the world doesn’t look like God.” Be different from the world, and you’ll have a big impact. It’s what Christians are called to do in the first place! “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2). This is what it’s about. Not being of the world, not being interested in the world’s things, but being interested in God’s things – following Christ’s example.
Follow Christ’s example to use your example to spark a light, start a conversation, enlighten someone, point the way to God, make friends and make brothers and sisters out of those friends. After all, Christians are called to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). When you’re not speaking it, live it. Live and show others why being in Christ is such a blessing.
What does it mean to be like Christ? It means to be a truth-teller, to be just, to be humble, loving, merciful, completely obedient to God the Father (see any of the gospels to read how He lived while He was on this earth – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). It means to serve others instead of asking to be served 24/7, to tell the truth peacefully and with love, to give to those who need it, to be patient, and to treat others well. It means to do everything in your power to please God and influence people in the most important of ways, leading them to salvation. I challenge you (and myself!) to ask yourself if how you’re acting, talking, and living is a way that Jesus would be living. Be the type of person who sheds light instead of darkness on people’s lives (Matthew 5:16).
The greatest of responsibilities when it comes to example is to glorify God through your words and actions because ultimately it’s not about us. It’s not ultimately about being liked or friend groups or popularity or money or whatever else your influence might bring you. It’s about bringing glory to your Maker. He made us all in His image, and we need to act like it – to act like people who will stop at nothing to bring honor to God.