READ: 1 Thessalonians 1
THINK: Charles Barkley is not only an NBA Hall-of-Fame basketball player, but he is also one of my favorite television personalities. His candor and humor in analyzing the game of basketball and all of its nuances are fun to listen to. And Sir Charles, as he is affectionately known, is a well-liked and widely respected guy who generally avoids controversy these days. But this wasn’t always the case. Barkley was a combative player on the court and he once caused major waves by doing a Nike commercial in which he famously declared, “I am not a role model.”
Barkley’s point – and Nike’s – was that parents should invest in their kids lives and not simply entrust their futures to whatever celebrities they happen to follow and look up to. It’s a good point. But there was severe backlash to the commercial because people rightly observed that Charles Barkley was a role model. It didn’t matter if he didn’t want to be one. In the end, it didn’t even matter if he shouldn’t have been one. Because of who he was – because of his identity as an NBA star – he was a role model whose behavior had an impact on young people no matter what.
To his credit, Barkley seems to have realized that. We could all learn from his experience. That is to say, every single one of us is a role model to somebody. Whether we want to be or not. Whether we should be or not. Whether we feel qualified to be or not. There are people who are watching us – people who are in our lives, who we interact with daily – whose actions are influenced by who we are, what we say, and what we do.
As believers in Jesus we have an identity. We are children of God, bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ. That identity means that we are called to be role models to those around us. This is exactly what the church in Thessalonica was. Paul commends them for following his example and, in turn, setting an incredible example of Christ-likeness for those around them. This is the model that God set in motion to bring Jesus to a world that is desperate for him! His people are to be changed in a way that helps them model Jesus for everyone around them.
Do people see Jesus in you? That may be an uncomfortable question. Many of us want to avoid the duty of being role models. We feel like we’re not good enough Christians to do it, or we’re so distracted by the world that we don’t want to make it a priority. But we are role models whether we want to be or not. We are designed and called and equipped to bring Jesus to our world through who we are and what we say and do. The world should see him through us. If the people around us don’t – if we aren’t willing to be the hands and feet of Christ in our world – then we have effectively abandoned them to hopelessness.
PRAY: Confess that your faith has not always shown God’s love and grace and truth to those around you. Confess the times when you have shied away from being a role model and reflecting Jesus. Ask God to help you be more Christ-like and help you reflect him to your world.
LIVE: Today is Father’s Day. If you have a father who has been a role model in your life, be sure to thank him! If you don’t, take a moment today to thank somebody who has been an important role model in your life.