Published August 3, 2010

Paul's Epistle...
"Being An Example"

Have you, though your actions and lifestyle, caused anyone to be less interested in becoming a Christian? Or less interested in going to church?

Before you say "no," please understand that you probably don't actually know the answer. As the saying goes, your actions speak louder than words. And unsaved acquaintances may have observed something about you that "turned them off" – even if they never said a word to you about it. In fact, there's an old saying, "I would not give much for your religion unless it can be seen."

Recently in her "Shelia Shares" column in this newsletter, Shelia wrote about a young girl who attended a Bible study for awhile at the Christian school she attended. As Shelia wrote, quoting the girl, "At the close of the talking, we were to get together in groups and pray for yourself and others. Not once did anyone come to where I was sitting and ask to pray with me. Not once did anyone invite me to join them for prayer. These were supposed to be the ‘spiritual kids' in the school. If that is Christianity, I don't want it. That's why so many kids who leave this school vow to never attend church again."

Wow. What an indictment of these "Christian" kids. And they probably had no idea whatsoever of the negative impact their actions had on this girl.

But that example illustrates the danger of looking at other Christians as examples of what Christianity is. All Christians fall short in some way. As Romans 3:23 reminds us, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." No one is perfect. Even (gasp!) professing Christians.

Providentially, we do have an example to follow – and that example is Christ Himself. When there is any question whatsoever about a course of action, ask that simple question that we've heard so often in recent years – "What would Jesus do?" Now, perhaps that question has been trivialized somewhat by overuse (and perhaps ridicule), but in its purest sense it is a powerful reminder that our everyday actions should be based on what Jesus would have us do.

When you find someone who seems to be an exemplary Christian, learn from him or her. But never let this person serve as an example that's more important than Christ's example. Always test whatever you learn or think against what you find in God's Word, which is the final authority regarding what we should do and how we should live.

Keeping your priorities straight in that way, if you later find that your "exemplary Christian" has fallen short, your faith won't be devastated because you've followed primarily Christ's example instead. Guard again cynicism in such cases. Remember, Christ will never fall short.

1st Peter 2:21-23 reminds us of this: "Christ, who suffered for you, is your example. Follow in his steps: He never sinned, never told a lie, never answered back when insulted; when he suffered he did not threaten to get even; he left his case in the hands of God who always judges fairly." (Living Bible)

Now that we're straight on Who we should follow as our example, let's get back to that situation cited above – the effect of those Christian students on a girl who was trying to find out what Christianity is like. How would her life have been changed if just one of those other students had simply approached her and offered to pray with her? They should have reviewed 1st Timothy 4:12: "Be their ideal; let them follow the way you teach and live; be a pattern for them in your love, your faith, and your clean thoughts." (LB)

There's your challenge! Be an example of Christ in all that you do. Do nothing that would tarnish Christianity in the eyes of others. Romans 14:21 reminds us to refrain from doing "anything whereby your brother stumbles, or is offended, or is made weak." In a very real sense, if you are known as a Christian, you represent Christ to others. Through your joy, your selflessness and very attitudes toward life, let others see Christ in you every day.

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