I was filling out an application for a mentoring program for women with disabilities, and one of the questions was “Who is your role model, and why?” I honestly could not think of an answer. I thought of my dad and Ken, and both seemed to be good answers, but for some reason, I paused. Neither answer seemed entirely true to me. Then I thought about John Lennon, who is one of the most interesting people I have ever read about. But I don’t consider him a role model either.
Then I thought, “Maybe I’m my own role model. I’ve paved my way so far with a fair amount of success.” That of course started making less sense the moment it came into my head. I didn’t think I could be my own role model. Eventually I thought of Jesus Christ, whom I worship. I certainly strive to follow His example, but it seemed inappropriate to put that on the application.
This annoyed me to some degree. It seemed like a perfectly acceptable answer, but I suspected that it would lead me to be judged unfairly. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve noticed that, especially in liberal New England, many people view serious Christians as unreasonable fundamentalists. It’s true that by worshiping the Lord and following His example, we tend to sometimes have a different and sometimes more conservative outlook on things, but it is also true that we are meant to be loving and accepting of people, despite their flaws. It is disappointing to have to point out that some Christians seem to forget this.
There are some things that, above all else, people should remember. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no specification about religion, ethnicity, age or gender here, and yet over the centuries, scores of Christians seem to have forgotten this. You’re not supposed to love your neighbor as long as they’re Christian and of the same denomination as you, you’re just supposed to love them. Another thing people tend to forget is that humankind was created in the image of God. It is true that we are all fallen, but there is also a part of us all that is the embodiment of God’s perfection. Thirdly, Jesus Himself spent His time with sinners and tax collectors. He said that it is not the people who are well who need a doctor, but those who are sick. This means that to follow His example, those who follow Him need to try to help others to know Him, not by throwing the Bible at them and telling them that they’re horrible sinners, but by accepting them as He would.
My New Testament professor at school told us a story one day. He said that he used to teach the Gospel in prisons. He said there was one man who was very logical and very intelligent who argued with nearly everything my professor said. Instead of getting angry about it, my professor just tried harder to convince the man that what he said was true. Eventually the man got out of prison, and my professor never heard from him again. Eventually he found out that the man had married a Christian woman and converted to Christianity but never told anyone. He had said that he wanted people to know he was Christian not by his words, but by his actions.
I had an interesting exchange with a friend the other day. She is stubbornly agnostic, which I actually enjoy at times because we have exceedingly interesting conversations about theology, philosophy and other subjects. We were hanging out in the deep end of my pool and I can’t remember exactly how the conversation went, but at one point she said “I’m proud to be your bad influence,” to which I replied, “Well, I’m proud to be your good influence, so it all works out.”
One thing I find can be difficult to understand at times is that over and over again, we are warned not to be influenced by “evildoers.” At first glance, this seems to contradict the idea that we are supposed to be loving “neighbors” to everyone. The point is not that we should avoid and shun those who do not share our beliefs, but simply that we should not allow ourselves to sin merely so we will be accepted by our peers. We need to exercise a measure of self control, as does everyone if we are to even uphold a functioning society. This does not mean that we must hide in our little Christian bubbles and avoid those who are different than us. We are meant to follow Jesus’ example, and therefore, we are meant to mingle with and be a good influence on our non-Christian friends. I personally believe it is better to be subtle when doing this. As with many things, it is best to show not tell.
If you’ve read this whole thing, you’re totally awesome, and I appreciate it! I hope this was interesting and helpful.