According to a popular saying, life doesn’t come with an instruction manual. But this isn’t really true when it comes to the Christian life. The Bible is full of instructions that show us how to live. But there is more to learning how to live the Christian life than reading alone. Observation and imitation are also important.
However, there is an edge to Paul’s command. When he tells the Philippian believers to “keep your eyes on those who live as we do” in verse 17, the word he uses is often associated with caution. This is the sort of careful watching done by those who are on their guard. The apostle’s directive assumes that not everyone who wanted to make an impression on the church was necessarily a good influence. It may also imply that some in the church were not as careful as they should have been about whose example they chose to follow.
If this was true in Paul’s day, it is exponentially more so in our own. Social media is filled with people who aspire to be influencers. We are often passive consumers of popular media designed to motivate us to buy products and attempts to shape our values. Every day we are pressed into a mold without even realizing it.
The solution that Paul offers is to be careful about those we take as our role models. One of the most important questions we must ask is one of motivation. What is driving those who seek to influence us? Many who claim to have our best interests in view are really looking out for themselves (v. 19). The other, more fundamental question we must ask is one of values (v. 18). Is their mindset on heavenly things?
>> Who is influencing you? Is there a more mature believer who can serve as a kind of spiritual coach? Ask them if they would have time to mentor you. Perhaps your pastor can suggest such a person.
Father, who have you placed in our lives as spiritual role models? Help us recognize the humble and mature believers around us who have great wisdom and instruction to offer. Lead us to spiritual mentors.