Leading by Christ's Example

Kim Sullivan

November 29, 2023

Recently, I was working with some young adults on a project and had the opportunity to be offended. It appeared that I had been overlooked, even plotted against by the staff at one of the churches we partner with. My young committee was appalled. I’ll admit, at the first hearing of the news, tears stung in my eyes and the pit of my stomach tightened and turned, but as I looked at their angry and defiant faces, I realized that there was something much more important at stake than my feelings. My response was being observed and would speak far louder than any words I could say.

Philippians 4:9 says, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

It’s hard to remember, in the heat of the moment, that others are watching our lives to see if we really believe what we say. However, I’d venture to say that we prove to our children, co-workers, and family what we truly believe more in those moments than at any other time. It’s where the rubber meets the road, and push comes to shove! Our world learns by our example. So what are some Biblical encouragements to being an example to our world?

Be willing to be an example

I Pe. 5:2 “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve;”

Being an example to others requires great self-discipline. It requires pure service to God by serving others. Allowing the interests of others to be at the forefront of your motives is how a shepherd interacts with his sheep. Without understanding the relationship between a sheep and his shepherd, it may seem cruel that a shepherd uses the crook to prod the sheep where he wants him to go. However, after careful study, we find that sheep are completely dependent on their shepherd. They are too dimwitted to see danger around the corner. We are to be watchful for those under our care, looking out for dangerous situations and intervening when we can. As I Peter 5:2 admonishes, we must do this because we want to, not because we have to or because we gain from it in any way.

Don’t lord over those under your authority

I Peter 5:3 “not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.”

One of the most common parenting rebuttals is, “because I said so!” Usually we mean one to two things when we say this. Either we mean, “You need to learn to listen to those who are in authority,” but we are too tired and worn out to explain that at the moment, or perhaps we are simply frustrated and don’t want to think of a better answer. However, “because I said so!” appears to be lording over our children. Being an example to our children and others in our life, is one of our most effective callings. Even if you have to respond with, “I don’t have the time to explain this to you right now, but please ask me later and I’ll be glad to talk to you about it then.” You are opening a door for conversation and a teachable moment rather than lording it over someone else.

The Father has trusted you with the care of your children and others in your life. We must be good stewards over the things that he has given us to watch over. Being in authority doesn’t have to mean tyranny.

Lead by following

If you are going to lead by example, you must first follow.

 I Corinthians 11:1 says, "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ." If we are to be followed, those following us must be able to observe us following Christ. 

God's Christ is the greatest example of Christianity. That’s why we had the popular WWJD, "What Would Jesus Do" movement. Following him means that we must deny the desires of our flesh. We cannot be led by selfish desires and think that we are following Jesus. Jesus reflected God's love and image perfectly, and his teachings remain counter-cultural through the generations because he remains the same yesterday, today, and forever. He never changes, and neither does our broken human nature. We are worthy of being followed only when we are following him. When others see us humbling ourselves to his desires and wishes, they can trust that we can be followed.

Christianity seems to be at a crisis point in history. So much is changing in the world, and so quickly that it seems difficult to know how to respond. We are often pressured in to speaking about our stance on different events and points of view. Perhaps when we are unsure what to say, we should just lead by example. Especially when we aren’t asked to comment. Sometimes I feel badly when I don’t share what I feel is God’s point of view on a subject, but it would behoove me to remember something I often tell my kids. “People are more important than being right.” Arguments rarely bring forth good fruit, but godly behavior often brings excellent results. When confronted, Jesus often did not argue, but rather led by example and by stories that showed good behavior. Let’s change our world by letting our actions speak more loudly than our arguments and ask God for the strength and wisdom to lead by example.

About the author — Kim Sullivan

Kim Sullivan is a writer with a background in everything from homeschooling to nonprofit management. She has raised three children each of whom are successful in their own unique way. Recently, Kim has done the most radical and risky thing she has ever done…she moved 700 miles from her suburban Chicago home and everything familiar to her and relocated to Tulsa, Oklahoma. She is working on a brand-new website and blogs at Journey to Epiphany. She is also writing a book about her adventures in following Jesus.

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