“What I do speaks louder than what I say.” We know that saying to be true, but do we live it? As a parent, as a leader, as a role model to our siblings, neighbors or fellow church members… Each of us models behavior regarding what is good, acceptable and right(eous) behavior.
My first Navy squadron had a well known (and deserved) reputation for “working hard and playing hard”. We were an excellent operational squadron and had amassed a long list of “firsts” and significant accomplishments. And while on deployment, the “playing hard” component of our squadron ethos often took the form of behavioral excesses, which included a lot of drinking and partying during down time between missions. It was often excessive (think “Animal House”) and frequently crossed the line of what most folk would consider morally acceptable behavior. My point is not to throw stones (I’d probably hit myself in the process), but to emphasize the critical components of peer pressure and role modeling. Peer pressure and the desire to be accepted is almost overwhelming to teenagers, young officers, and adults. As leaders, we must provide wholesome alternatives and guidance in how to respond to the inevitable temptations of life, for “our adversary, the devil, is like a roaring lion seeking those whom he would consume.” (1 Peter 5:8) Given the opportunity, sin will fill the void and consume us.
How do we model Christ-like behavior as leaders? As the Apostle Paul said to Timothy, our first defense should be to “flee” from temptation. (2 Timothy 2:22) Sin begins with a thought, a desire, but is completed by wrong behavior… which ultimately leads to death. (James 1:15). We are all susceptible to temptation. Christ was tempted by Satan in the wilderness. Christ responded by quoting Scripture. (Matthew Chapter 4). We should flee from temptation, but also flee toward spiritually and morally healthy behavior. One of the most effective ways of doing that is for leaders to encourage and provide healthy peer group activities for those we are responsible for. As leaders and managers, as parents, isn’t our number one responsibility to provide the healthy resources and safety guidance to those we are responsible for? As Christian leaders we have the responsibility to model spiritual behavior and provide spiritually edifying outlets and resources for those we are responsible for. High school small group Bible study activities, military deployment fellowship groups and volunteer projects while overseas, for example. Parents bear a critical role in providing healthy Christian peer group activities for their teens, in addition to the behavior we model regarding the everyday practical temptations of life: road rage, anger, temptations, disappointments, disrespectful behavior, material lusts, etc.
Healthy peer groups, guard our thoughts, flee temptations, prayer and Bible study/memorization, humility. That’s the behavior our Lord and Savior models for us and demands of us as Christian leaders.