Setting the Bar

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Setting the Bar

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Does our example matter? Working with children in a school setting, one of the first lessons one learns is that elementary school children are always watching the adults who are in authority. The lesson that goes along with that is that one must consciously (and constantly) choose to be a model of good behavior and appropriate choices. Now, some of those choices are obvious: don't run in the halls, don't push people, and don’t throw books around. But there are many choices that are made every day that would seem to be much smaller in scope, and yet I have had to think to change my behavior. For example, if I walk down to the lunchroom and buy just ice cream at lunchtime, the kids don't know that I have a complete lunch waiting back in my office; they see Mrs. Rowland buying only ice cream for lunch. If they see me reading a book while I'm eating my lunch, then the lesson on book care that talks about not reading while you're eating or drinking becomes pointless. From 7:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. every day, I am helping to set the standard of behavior by monitoring my own behavior for correctness.

Immanuel Kant wrote, “I ought never to act except in such a way that I could also will that my maxim should become a universal law.” One translation renders this, “So act that your principle of action might safely be made a law for the whole world.” In the course of my day at school, this means that I must act as though all children were likely to view my example as the one to follow. What would it look like if everyone did as Mrs. Rowland does? Would it be a just world? Would people be kind to one another? Would it be a pleasant world? In all my actions from 7:30 to 3:15, I must be thinking of others – planning how to make the piece of the world they inhabit better because of my presence in every way I can.

This should not be much of a stretch. As Christians, we are called to the same thing. In Matthew 5:14-16, Christ said, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

We live in a society in which bad behavior is both persuasive and pervasive. There is a general lack of awareness that there are standards of good behavior. There are some things that we can all agree are forbidden in the Bible. But what of things that seem smaller? What about raucous parties? What about using bad language? What about how we dress and what movies we watch?

We don't like to be told what to do with our free time, with our clothing, and with our language. Does it matter, as long as we pray and care for others? Does it matter, as long as we believe in God with our whole heart? It does. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” It is worth asking ourselves whether the people we meet could, in imitating us, be imitating Christ. Is our example one that sets the standard for right--and righteous--behavior?

Loving God and loving others is more than simply feeling kind and loving towards them, though that is indeed a very good start. Loving others must extend to how we act and to the example that we set. In Ephesians 5:1-4, Paul writes, “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” In verses 8-10, he continues, “Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.”

We cannot separate our actions from our beliefs. Both must be right. Both must be continually in line with God's will and the example of Christ. Our lives have a purpose. Our every action must be brought into line with scriptural teachings so that as people watch us, they can see a glimpse of God. Our example must emulate God more and more, so that it can be seen that the principles of our actions--as laid down by God--would indeed be a safe law for the whole world.

For more information on what God expects of us, request a free copy of Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion.


  • Katherine Rowland

    We say a lot about ourselves without ever saying a word; it's wise to consider how we are affecting others, even if what we're doing might not be inherently wrong!

  • Josephmurphy40

    I never thought that what i wear made that big of a deal before. I feel differently about that now.

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