It used to be that we could find leaders to follow, men and women who understood the power of their positions and took it seriously. Well, actually, as I look back, maybe I’m exaggerating. The dearth of good examples has existed for quite some time, but that has not stopped our youth from looking.
You don’t have to flip between too many TV news reports to hear about one more sports figure being caught drinking too much, driving too fast, using a gun, abusing animals, using illicit drugs, or being sued for inappropriate behavior, among other indiscretions. Unfortunately, the reports don’t stop with sports figures, but include television/movie “stars,” and political figures, and sometimes even religious figures, all of whom seem to think they are living in some kind of bubble, unseen by the world around them or by God.
That’s the problem with fame and success: on the one hand it dulls the sensitivities regarding sin and responsibility, and on the other hand the famous and successful forget that they are no longer living their own simple lives, but rather are living lives out loud, in front of the world to be seen by all, and emulated by many who are desperately seeking an idol.
This problem kind of reminds me of a phrase children often hear from adults: “Do as I say, not as I do.” If you talked to any one of these “leaders” today, they would, on one hand, recognize the tremendous power they have over today’s youth, but on the other hand flippantly disregard that power to lead as they fall, even deeper, into foolishness and trouble.
My hometown had such a situation this past year. A young man thrust into the spotlight, Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback, let the money, power, and hype deceive him. He partied himself senseless, until the “bill collector came calling.” A young woman, deceived by idol worship, drugs, and alcohol, cried foul against Big Ben. The rest is history, and this with only one night of partying exposed. The city of Pittsburgh expressed their disgust, and Ben repented and promised better behavior, but not before almost losing his career.
Contrast that to St. Louis Cardinal’s hero, Albert Pujols. A devout man, Albert is dedicated to his wife, family, his team, and his faith. He brings this dedication to his craft and to his team. Pujols and his wife are active Christians; his foundation’s website states, “In the Pujols family, God is first. Everything else is a distant second” (Wikipedia). If not for this faith commitment, Albert’s life would probably have taken a much different turn.
Unfortunately, these are just two examples in an overwhelming sea of notoriety, with those like Albert Pujols in the minority. Those famous people, we think smugly, don’t they understand that our children are watching them? Don’t they recognize the examples they are setting? The deception becomes even greater when we, who live our lives not on the big or the little screen, but in its full, life-size glory, think that only the examples of the famous are important. In reality, although the mindsets of our children and youth are affected by the “big” people, the true patterns for their lives are you and me—parents, teachers, pastors, neighbors, and other adults living out our convictions, or lack thereof, for all to see.
Ask yourself, “Is the life that I am living something I would want my child to repeat?” “Is the way I speak how I want my children to speak to others?” “What kind of standards am I setting for those who see my life every day?
We all need models, standards, ideals. Unfortunately, even the best of men and women have flaws. Even the best of us fall short, get even, lose our tempers, and become “mad with power”! That is the problem with patterning our lives after one another. Even in our best times, we are less than perfect and find ourselves regretting a word or an action and needing forgiveness.
The apostle Paul commanded his readers to “follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1), elaborating on that instruction in the second chapter of his letter to the Philippians. I won’t reproduce the entire chapter here, but just bring the highlights.
Reject vain ambition and conceit and consider others better than yourselves (v. 3). It isn’t easy to try to be the best and still consider others. In fact, it takes an exceptional man or woman to strive for excellence while taking note of the needs of those around. Normally, we take a “no prisoners” stand in the process of getting promoted, getting elected, or winning the title. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. But the example of Christ is one of concern and partnership, of love and compassion. When we follow Jesus’ example we don’t succeed alone, but bring others with us.
Jesus did not chase after equality with God (v. 6). Deep inside most of us have the desire to be powerful or famous. It is a part of the human condition. We want to be on top! Bullies put down everyone around them so they can be top dog. Jesus, fully God and fully Man, didn’t flaunt equality with God, but rather laid down his life for us, the very ones who rejected Him. The humility of Christ tells us to give God the glory for our achievements and elevation, and in doing so to serve others.
I suppose the worst example we could give, as believers, is to be a prideful Christian. The two words don’t even fit together. When we become proud of ourselves, we cease looking to God for our value and become vain about our faith in God, which in itself is a gift from God, not something we have created ourselves.
Jesus made humbled himself and became a servant and (vv. 7,8).
Jesus had every right and every ability to cut down his accusers and persecutors. He “could have called ten thousand angels” to justify His place and power in heaven, but that would not have rescued humanity from the grip of sin. He became the suffering servant so we could be rescued from sin.
One person quipped, “When you know you are humble, that is when you are being proud.” Whom have you served lately? Has it been only those of your “station” and bearing in life? When have you humbled yourself? Paul calls us to follow Jesus example of humility by becomes servants not only to “our people” but to those around us, to those who are suffering and needy, to those who, like we were, are lost and without hope. We are called to serve others, across denominational and political lines, so that they might see the message and example of Christ in us.
As you read this article, I hope you are, as I am, taking an inventory of yourself, considering how you are or are not following Christ’s example in your own life. Go to Philippians, read it again, pray over it and ask God to show you where you may or may not be living up to Christ’s awesome pattern for life.
Teachers, humble yourselves for the sake of those in your charge. Business people, consider how you can bless those in your community and help the needy. Parents, consider Christ’s example and try to live that example before your children and their friends. When we do these things, we show others that pride and arrogance has no place in our lives, but rather, that we are called to serve as Christ served.
Consider Jesus . . . .
Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church