I’ve mentioned before how important it is to consider carefully who we follow. There are a number of good leaders out there, but there are a number of bad ones as well. Because of this, it’s vital that we take a look at the fruit they are bearing in their lives, both the fruit of their teaching, and the fruit of their day-to-day lives.
That said, even if we are following good leaders, it would be good to keep in mind that even they are not perfect. Even they make mistakes. So let us never put them on such a pedestal that we equate them with God. They make wrong decisions sometimes. They sometimes are mistaken in the way they think. And so as we follow their example, we need to be careful to filter the good from the bad.
That’s why I think Paul said,
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
Because ultimately, our example is Christ. And where our role models conform to Christ’s image, so should we. But in any area where they fail to conform to the image of Christ, we need to look not at them, but at Christ as our role model. If we fail to do this, it will get us into trouble.
We see an example of this in Galatians 2:11-13. Peter was one of the early leaders of the church. If there was one person you would have thought you could look up to as an example, it would have been him.
But under pressure, Peter compromised when he shouldn’t have. In Galatians, you see that he had been hanging out with the non-Jewish believers, probably eating their food, and having no problem with it…until some legalistic Jews showed up. At which point, Peter started distancing himself from the non-Jews and only hanging out with the Jewish Christians.
Because he did that, the other Jewish believers followed his example, including a very godly man named Barnabas. And when Paul saw this, he scathed them all for their actions.
Peter, of course, was the most responsible as a leader. But the others, by following Peter’s bad example, fell into sin as well.
So remember, no matter how good your role model is, don’t place them on the same pedestal as God. They are not perfect. They may be your pastor, your mentor, or even a famous Bible teacher, but they will all make missteps along the way. Don’t follow them in those missteps.
Follow them as they follow Christ. But where they don’t, make sure you keep clear of the pits they fall into. And as you can, warn them and help them as they have so often warned and helped you.