Even if we believe that it makes no difference to the Lord whether we do these things, still we cannot just go ahead and do them to please ourselves; for we must bear the “burden” of being considerate of the doubts and fears of others—of those who feel these things are wrong. Let’s please the other fellow, not ourselves, and do what is for his good and thus build him up in the Lord. Romans 15:1-2 (Living Bible)
This passage is very direct in telling us of the responsibility that we have to be a living model for those around us. In the early Church, the leaders took this very seriously, as it was necessary for the young movement to be as pristine as possible in consistency of the message of love which Jesus pronounced. Therefore, Paul took great pains to explain that we should subjugate our comfort and desires for the good of others and the good of the Gospel.
The word “Role Model” is of relatively recent vintage, coined by Robert Merton, a renowned sociologist, in the 1950’s. The concept however is timeless. We all have a tendency to aspire to the good behavior we see around us- or conversely, to live down to the poor behaviors we see around us. Until we have developed a strong internal moral compass, we are more prone to adapt to the values we see around us.
The early Christian leaders knew this, and they insisted upon a selfless following of the model of Jesus. Without a true canon of Scripture in those early days, the only real message of Jesus was found in the behavior displayed by those who named Jesus as Lord.
Francis of Assisi said that we should “preach the Gospel at all times, using words if necessary” – a succinct and true statement which I really love and quote often.
We are surrounded by sports figures who regularly are held out as “role models”, only to fail at some aspect of their behavior. Our job is to find, and become, those models who are most like Jesus. We will never find perfection in this, but we are called to be on that journey. Indeed, that journey goes best with others who are trying to travel the same road.
Prayer: Father, we are imperfect models of Jesus, but we aspire to follow Him. We trust in your Holy Spirit to guide us as we submit to Him, Amen.