When my son was about Joy’s age he drove all over our backyard with his kid-sized toy car, brightly colored and “foot-powered.” It was his favorite plaything. If it had an odometer, I am sure he would have logged a thousand miles in it. My brother enjoyed watching my son ride around in his little car. But what he loved the most was to call out, “Troy, get out of your car like Mommy does!” And Troy would shove the car door open, jump out and SLAM the door as he walked away. My brother would be in hysterics, and my face would be red. I didn’t mean to give him that kind of example, but the pint-sized proof was right there.
The writer of Hebrews said, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the Word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” ((Heb 13:7). It brings to mind Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount when he warned against false prophets: “Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. By their fruit you will recognize them” (Matt 7:18, 16). By their fruit, you will know if this is someone to imitate or someone you need to guard against.
In Christendom, for every Billy Graham, there is a Josh Harris. Graham was one of the greatest evangelists in the modern era and led thousands to Christ through his crusades across the globe. Harris was a pastor and best-selling author who had a thriving ministry until he walked away from it all in 2019 and denounced His faith in Jesus. What does each man’s fruit say about his roots – and his heart?
My son proved a valid point for me and every minister and leader and teacher at every level in the church. We are not just supposed to be an example – we are an example, whether we intend to be or not. For the good or the bad. I want my life, my words, my actions, my goals, my investments, even my thoughts, and especially my unguarded reactions to be a godly example for others – especially my granddaughter – to imitate.
There are two points I want to make: First, Paul said “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). I need to guard my life and imitate Christ so that those who imitate me are following Him. Second, check the fruit of those to whom you are looking as godly examples. Is it healthy or are you seeing spots of rot? Beloved, be wise. Be discerning. And above all, be like Jesus.