Your life forms the ceiling above which you cannot influence people to grow.
This is not to say that they cannot grow beyond you. They most certainly can. But you don’t have any influence over that. If they grow beyond you, they are not growing because of you, they are growing in spite of you.
“A student should be satisfied to become like his teacher” (Matthew 10:25; NCV). Usually, they are satisfied. Very seldom does the students’ maturity eclipse that of his teachers.
That is why James warned, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1). Judged more strictly because to some degree we are judged by the lives of the people we create. That is what Paul meant when he said, “You yourselves are all the endorsement we need. Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you” (2 Cor. 3:2; MSG).
We are sometimes shocked by the writings of Paul. One of those places is Philip. 3:17: “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you” (NIV). Presumably the sense of it, “take note of those who live according to the pattern. . . so that you can follow that pattern.
We think it sounds real spiritual to say, “No, no, no, don’t follow my example; follow the example of Jesus. Don’t look to me, look to Christ.” Sounds humble. Sounds spiritual. That is not how the Bible teaches us to work as teachers. The truth is, students will follow your example whether you like it or not. They will follow your example whether you tell them to or not.
If you have a quiet time, they might have a quiet time. If you don’t, they likely won’t. If you are generous and kind, they might be. If you are stingy and mean, they will pick up on those qualities. They will follow us, so we must follow Christ. This is what Paul said in another place: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).
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