Too often, we look up to men and women—and strive to emulate them for the purpose of becoming more like THEM, not more like Jesus.
Therefore, be imitators of God—Ephesians 5:1
Really? Is it so wrong for us to emulate the life of another man or woman? Is it so wrong to hold another person up as a role model? Well, the answer is (as it often is) . . . it depends. It depends on what exactly in the person we long to emulate. If it’s Christlikeness only—if it’s only how the person demonstrates Jesus Christ to us and to others—then, no, it’s not so wrong. We’re meant to be for one another physical examples of how to follow Jesus ever more closely. Watching another person move further into the character of Christ helps us move further, too. That’s how it’s supposed to work. The Apostle Paul wrote: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Too often, though, that’s not the way it actually works. Too often, we look up to men and women—and strive to emulate them—for the purpose of becoming more like them, and not more like Jesus. Too often, it’s worldly things that draw us in: a person’s success, their achievements, their talent, their career, their money, their power, their possessions. We men fall into this a lot. And the problem is the same whether the things coveted are secular or ecclesiastical in nature. We can lift any person too high: magnate or minister, entrepreneur or entertainer, priest or professor. We can lift them so high they begin to obscure Jesus.
Okay, so what do we do?
Hero worship is a sensitive subject. We men like our heroes. And we don’t like people to mess with them. We must be careful, though, that no person (great though they may be) gets between us and the ultimate hero. Examine your heart. Wrestle with the issue. Discuss it openly with some brothers—and with God, in prayer.