As Christians, we are taught to be lights to the world. Scripture reads, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). We hear the words, we know what they mean, but do we really consider how much of an impact they have? How we act—our example is very important to God. Why? Because we are examples of who God is, what His character is like.
It takes effort to change who we are and it is almost impossible when we refuse to separate ourselves from bad influences.
When we consider the examples Christ set for us, we should understand we are to emulate that behavior. We are to mirror His goodness, forgiveness and love towards all people. It is not always easy to do, but it is what God wants from us. We are God’s children and meant to stand apart from the world. Matthew 13:49 states that at the end of the age the angels will “separate the wicked from among the just.” The just will have lived as God commanded and have been a good example to those around them. “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20, English Standard Version).
Have you ever been around someone who professes to be a Christian, but then goes about doing things that do not appear Christian at all? Maybe they use God’s name in vain or use profane language. Maybe they are superstitious, spread malicious gossip or are mean and cruel to others. When someone professes their love for God and Christ and then acts foolishly, it reflects poorly on God and His people. How can we be lights to the people of the world when we are living this way? We cannot. "They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work" (Titus 1:16).
We are told to live differently. To be incorruptible, reverent, loving, temperate, etc. (Titus 2:1-8). It is also true that if we are living as good examples, but spend all our time with those who are corrupt, we will eventually fall into trouble (1 Corinthians 15:33). God understands that people tend to act and do as those around them, which is why He warns us to avoid such relationships. Think about it. That’s how traditions start, how languages develop and why we tend to use the same gestures and words our closest friends and family use. It comes upon us slowly and sometimes even surprises us when we do or say something out of character.
It takes effort to change who we are and it is almost impossible when we refuse to separate ourselves from bad influences. “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God” (3 John 1:11). Paul reminds us to not “let our good be spoken of as evil” (Romans 14:16). This can happen when we slip up in what we say and do. Others often look for bad in us. If we go along doing well in their eyes and then stumble by speaking evil of another, or swearing when they have never heard us do so, or do anything uncomely in front of them, they often erase all the good we have done and focus on that one bad thing. That is why it is so important to make changes that change who we are internally.
Knowing this, we must be even more aware of how we treat others who are not close to us or that do good towards us. Are we being a good example to all? (Luke 6:33). It needs to come naturally for us. We must internalize the behavior and be genuine in it (Psalms 37:27). If we don’t, people will see right through our deception. “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). It has to become part of our nature.
Of course, none of us are perfect. But we are to continually strive to be so (Matthew 5:48). It is a learning process. Psalm 18:32 tells us it is God who gives us the strength to get there. And Galatians 3:3 tells us we are being made perfect by the Holy Spirit. Without God’s help, we could never master it, but the intention to do so must begin with us. We must take the first steps to be all that God would have us to be if we want to be a part of the glorious future He has planned for us. Being a good example to others seems little to ask.