Having a good role model and being a good role model is a natural outcome of living the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18–20). In the process of making disciples, we should both have good role models to look up to and be a good role model for others to look up to (Titus 2:2–8). A good role model is not just a good addition to the Christian life; a good role model can make the difference between walking in faithful obedience and walking in your flesh.
One can find good traits in non-Christians that are admirable, but it is dangerous to model your life and your character after those who do not know Christ. Our imitation of other people is only beneficial in so far as they are imitating Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1, James 3:14–18), and we are foolish if we believe that the people we surround ourselves with and look up to are not going to influence the way that we live: "Whoever walk with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm" (Proverbs 13:20).
Finding a good role model should begin with finding someone who is a Christian, but the qualifications don't end there. A good role model is a believer in Jesus who is truly following Him and seeking to grow in faith. There are those who profess Christianity but do not bear the fruit. There are also immature believers. Maturity is not always a function of how long one has been a believer, but depends instead on how much one is yielding his or her life to the work of the Holy Spirit. A good role model is one who is living out the truths of the Bible and who encourages us to know God more and follow Him more closely. Someone who regularly reads God's Word (the Bible), spends time with Him in prayer, is involved in Christian fellowship, loves others with godly love, and exhibits the fruit of the Holy Spirit is a good place to start when looking for a role model.
There are natural role models that occur in our lives. Parents are role models for their children (Ephesians 6:4; Proverbs 22:6), older siblings are role models for younger, older men and women in the church are role models for younger men and women (Titus 2:2–7), and pastors and church leaders are role models for their congregations (Hebrews 13:7). We should not just look for a Christ-like role model for ourselves, but we should also be evaluating ourselves to know whether we are a good role model for someone else to imitate. There is no age limit on being a good role model, and even young people are called to be models of Christlikeness (1 Timothy 4:12).
Ultimately, Jesus is the best role model. He is the perfect example of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, kindness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22–23). He is the perfect example of obedience to God. He loves perfectly. He has the perfect model for relationships. And yet we are still told to look to others as examples as much as they are imitating Christ (2 Thessalonians 3:7–9; 1 Timothy 4:12; 2 Timothy 1:13; 1 Corinthians 11:1). We are able to observe some of Jesus' example in the Gospels, but often we need a more tangible example. Seeing others live for Christ encourages us to do the same. Watching how others practically follow Jesus in our modern context helps us know how to do the same. This is one of the reasons that Christian community is so important.
Hebrews 10:23–25 says, "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." Good role models can encourage us to remain steadfast in faith. They can also stir us up to love and good works. All who have put their faith in Jesus Christ are part of His body, the church. Each person has a specific and different function, yet we all reflect the character of Jesus (1 Corinthians 12:12–20). As the body of Christ, we remind each other of the fullness of Christ's character by looking at the lives of other faithful Christians around us. We can model Christ's love, forgiveness, compassion, and courage to one another.
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