With his likable personality and quick wit, he was a well-liked floor supervisor in the company where I worked. Overhearing some comments he made one day, I inferred that he might be a Christian, which surprised me. His behavior to that point made him nearly indistinguishable from his non-Christian co-workers. But he did have direct access to one of the top executives in the company on a daily basis, and worked closely with several other key front-office people. So I was interested in how he might be using his position for the advance of Jesus’ kingdom.
His response to my inquiry was disappointing. “Not really,” he answered when I asked whether he had a witness with his colleagues. His reason was disturbing. With the cheerful confidence of one who has settled into a comfortable theology, he explained that he assured his co-workers that they should not hold him up as a model of Christianity. “Don’t look at me,” he told people. “Look at Jesus.”
On the surface that sounds reasonable, and contains some truth. Of course Jesus is the only perfect model. But if as Christians all we can say is, “don’t look at me,” then why are we here? Are we content with that?
Paul wasn’t. He said, “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us” (Philippians 4:17, NASV). That’s an audacious claim, but maybe permissible for “super saints” such as Paul. Evidently, Paul didn’t think so. He invited others to follow not only his example, but also the lives of those who were following him. Neither he nor Jesus seem to be impressed by the “don’t-look-at-me-I’m-not-perfect” approach to disciple-making. Neither is it enough to live a faithful life and merely hope someone notices.
When I think of the alternative, I recall Peter Hubbard’s account of a woman who lived with his family while leaving a life of drug addiction. In his book Love into Light, Hubbard relates that during her first meal with them, the woman broke down crying and could hardly finish eating. Hubbard writes, “We were shocked to learn that never before had she sat down at a table to eat dinner together as a family. She had never before seen a husband and wife who loved each other, or children who interacted with their parents in a natural and respectful way. She had never seen a family laugh or pray together.”
Hubbard was careful to add that, “Fortunately, she stayed with us long enough to experience the good, the bad, and the ugly of our family life.” Fortunate in that, though flawed, they were growing disciples of Jesus who boldly and intentionally let their light shine for someone who needed it very much. In effect, their message was, “watch me.”
Now, watch this short video, and be opened to what disciple-making might look like in your life.
[Thanks to Jonathan Mathias, lead pastor of Grace Church of Alexandria, Virginia, for bringing this video to my attention].