It is intimidating to be handed a baby and have it entrusted to your care. Even more intimidating to recognize that you are to be this child’s spiritual guide on life’s journey. The Apostle Paul functioned as a spiritual father to many churches. To his church in Corinth, Paul said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
How confident are we to say, “Follow my example of following Christ”?
This phrase probably sounds too arrogant to our ears. How could we as fallible people think that we could follow Christ so perfectly that we could be a fitting example for others to follow? It sounds too bold to suggest that we would be the example of Christ that others should follow. However, as parents, this is the role that we play. Little eyes are watching our every move and imitating our actions--both good and bad.
Perhaps we need to remind ourselves of the eyes that watch us. Knowing our actions are being followed should guide us to be more like Jesus in our homes and to our families. Maybe we need to say, like Paul, “Watch me demonstrate God’s love for you kids and your mother. I am trying to love you like Jesus loves you.” Or maybe, “See how we practice forgiveness, we are trying to follow Jesus example.” Those small phrases might be reminders to us of how loving and giving we need to be.
Children will watch our every action and determine where our true priorities lie. They do not need to hear our words to tell them what matters to us. They will see from our actions what we value and where we invest our time and energy. With our words we may say what we want our children to care about, but our actions will betray us if we are not practicing what we preach.
If we never open our Bibles, how will we know how God has called us to live? It is in dwelling in relationship with God that his character is seen. As we love God, his spirit transforms our lives and molds us to live into the image of Christ. Apart from time spent with God, we will have nothing of Christ to offer to others. We can’t give what we don’t have.
The truth is that our kids are looking to us as their living breathing example whether we admit that we are or not. We are our children’s first close-up view of Jesus. We are the example they will see for how to care for each other. We are the example they will watch for learning to communicate in love. Our children will learn forgiveness and restoration first at home before they will later recognize it from Jesus. May we be able to say, “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13).
It would be arrogant to think that we could step into Christ’s role--we fall far short of his righteousness at every turn. But God has given us an authoritative role in our families to point others back to him. It should humble us to think that God chose us for this task. If we walk with great humility, our families will see the servant leadership that Christ modeled for us in his time here on earth.
Hypocrisy is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to being an effective witness. We will all mess up sometimes and we should own that. We do the best that we can, but we are human and sometimes our selfishness is going to show itself in our words and actions. It is important that we recognize our bad behavior and seek forgiveness from God and from each other. Pretending to have life together will only damage our witness. What our families need to see is a contrite heart.
It may be intimidating to model Christ, but God equips us for the challenge. As we humbly draw close to him, he will help us to radiate his love to the world. And even when we fall short of the example that we strive to follow; in Christ we have forgiveness and a fresh start.