My friend, author Kathi Mascias, recently told a story about Rosey Grier, the former NFL Probowl defensive tackle. She wrote: "A mountain of a man with a heart of gold, he was always aware of being in the public eye. He once spoke to a group of NFL recruits about this very topic, and one of them replied, "I don't want to be a role model."
Rosey told him, "Son, when you accepted the NFL draft, you stepped into that position. The only thing you have to decide now is what kind of role model you're going to be.""
That reality has a particular ring of truth for believers in Christ. God has decided to reveal himself in this present age through his Church. We are called to live lives that reflect who we are in Christ to the world around us. Paul urged the Philippians to live as "children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life."
Paul also wrote the Ephesians: "... the manifold wisdom of God [is] now made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places." Not just our fellow man is getting an education. Even the angels and demons are learning about God through the lives of those who believe in him.
Kind of a heavy responsibility, don't you think? What's especially sobering is the fact that it is not the words we preach, but our actual lives that are doing the talking.
We often equate witnessing to words. There are all kinds of books and programs out there, telling us exactly what to say when sharing the gospel. There's nothing wrong with studying these things, for Peter encourages us to be ready "to give an account for the hope that is in you." But if we think our primary witness is in our pretty speech, we'd better think again.
Note Peter urges us to be ready with a response. When others see Christ in us, through the way we are living our lives, they will be intrigued. The genuineness of our walk will naturally raise questions. So we must be ready for when they inquire as to what makes us different.
Actions pre-authenticating words. It really is a genius plan.
In the absence of validating action, words can be mistakenly perceived. I remember a fellow camp staff member who had a requirement to fill during his summer job. He had signed a promise to his very conservative Christian college that he would share the gospel at least three times a week. Desperate to keep his obligation, he embarrassed us several times in public places, preaching uninvited to anyone who would make eye contact. I never did see him lead anyone to the Lord. But I did see him repulse some people. Words come across as preachy judgment when they are not authenticated by actions.
We show God's love for others by loving them ourselves. Our kind acts demonstrate God's kind intentions toward them. Humility and brokenness allows them to see our common reality: without Christ, we stand guilty, condemned, unworthy. Extending grace and mercy reflects the cure we've been granted: God's unmerited forgiveness and acceptance.
How we live determines how effectively we fulfill our role as God-revealers. Whether we like it or not, when we believed, we stepped into that position. It's up to us what kind of role model we are going to be.
"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16