Vol. 4, No. 2
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A child learns by example. A careful observation of young children at play will verify this point. Children will do the things those around them are doing. A child learning to talk will imitate the words that he hears. Those words may come from the radio, television, parents or other individuals with whom the child may come in contact. I have always known this, however, I was reminded of this fact recently when talking to my son about his son. When Raymond gets his tools out to make repairs on the house, two-year-old Elijah gets daddy's tools and tries to help. Elijah wants to wear clothes similar to daddy's clothes. Elijah wants to be like daddy. I believe this is probably true of most young children. Young children want to be and try to act like the adults around them. Unfortunately, as children grow older, this role model attitude fades far too quickly.
Knowing that we have young children watching us and trying to imitate us should encourage each of us to live our lives the best we can. It should encourage us to control our tongues and to control the things they hear on the radio and television. We should be careful to keep, not only the vulgarity that is rampant in the world from their tender ears, but also the gossip and negative complaints about others in which good moral individuals sometimes become involved. Vulgarity, gossip and backbiting are sinful (Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 3:8; 1 Timothy 5:13; 1 Peter 4:15). When we allow this type of behavior to influence our young children, it becomes extremely difficult for them to break the sinful habit when they grow to the age of accountability and become Christians. Please, be the example to the children around you whether it is to your children, your grandchildren, your nieces and nephews, the children in your neighborhood or at church that will help and not hinder them to live the Christian life.
I would like to take this thought one step further. Just as young children need parents and other adults to set the proper example for Christian living, newborn Christians also need mature Christians to set the proper example for Christian living. The apostle Paul told the Corinthian brethren (and all mankind through Bible inspiration): "Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me" (1 Corinthians 4:16) and "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). The Greek word translated "follower" in both of these verses means "imitator." Paul was telling the Corinthians to "imitate" or "act like" him as long as he was acting like Christ. The meaning of Christian is "Christ like."
Paul told the Philippians, "Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample" (Philippians 3:17). Later in the fourth chapter of Philippians, Paul gave instruction as to what they should be imitating.
"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you" (Philippians 4:8-9).
Paul is telling the Philippians to apply the things he taught them. His teaching was not by words (heard) only but by the example (seen) of his actions. The teachings he was emphasizing are outlined in verse eight. To be truthful, honest, just (innocent or holy), pure (clean, modest or chaste), lovely, of good report and virtuous (moral goodness). To be pleasing to God we must develop these qualities in our lives. Christians today need other Christians (who have and are continuing to develop these characteristics in their lives) to imitate. Newborn Christians need someone to imitate -- someone to "look up to" -- a role model for better Christian living. Mature Christians, also, need someone to "look up to." They need someone to be a better example to encourage them to do better in various aspects of their lives. Mature Christians need someone that says by example, "That person is the example of Christ, I want to be like that person, I need to improve in this aspect of my life so that I, too, can be more Christ-like."
The Thessalonians were so thrilled with the teachings of Paul that they strived to imitate him. Paul commended them for this in 1 Thessalonians 1:6, "And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost." Paul did not just commend them for imitating him; he used them as an example for other Christians to imitate. "So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing" (1 Thessalonians 1:7-8). Paul commended the Thessalonians for going out beyond their immediate area to preach Christ and his saving power.
These are just a few of the biblical examples of using faithful Christians as examples to help us become better Christians. What kind of an example are you? Are you helping or hindering those around you to be better persons and better Christians? Are you looking for other Christians to imitate to help you become a better Christian? If, not, why not!
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