I am not a role model - or am I?

The wonderful phrase Each One, Teach One is an African proverb that originated in the United States during slavery when Africans were denied education. When someone learned how to read or write, it became their responsibility to teach someone else. The idea is to spread knowledge for the betterment of the community.

I am not a role model.

Those six words, spoken in 1993 by outspoken basketball Hall-of-Famer Charles Barkley, set the opening tone for one of the most iconic commercials in Nike history. Everybody chimed in with their opinions on his defiant declaration – everyone.

Barkley’s point was valid – there is no question that parents, rather than athletes, are duty-bound to set the example for their children who ideally look up to them. From a godly point of view, there is no debate.

At the same time, we are all called to set the example, to be role models for those who come from us and those who come after us. And for those who walk alongside us. As well as those who are influenced by us.

In our ministry, Just Us Limited, we have been privy to so many stories of dysfunctional and unhealthy families. Absentee fathers, stressed mothers, children raised by televisions, PDAs, and video games.

It’s truly heartbreaking, and we have at times asked ourselves, “What happened to us as a society - when did our family structure break down like this?”

Recently, a 17-year-old Houston teen made the news for a horrible crime. He slammed a 44-year-old mother of three to the ground and left her paralyzed after robbing her of $4,300 in cash she had withdrawn to take a trip. He had trailed her for 24 miles from a bank to a shopping center before he made his violent move.

On jailhouse phone calls, he was heard ridiculing the victim, Nhung Truong. “We were snatching purses,” he said. “I hopped out, snatched the purse, the lady ran with the money, I grabbed her, slammed her and she was paralyzed.” Ms. Truong is unable to walk after suffering a fractured spine and other serious injuries.

The young man is now angry that her daughter has raised more than $330,000 through GoFundMe to help with the extensive medical costs of her mother’s recovery and rehabilitation.

“The lady probably wants justice and some more ****,” he said. "They'll try to max me out 20 years basically. That *****. I ain't going for it. The ***** already ran up $230,000 off GoFundMe. ***** better run on with her life.”

No repentance, no regret, no remorse.

There was a time when this unrepentant young hoodlum was an innocent child, unable to do anything for himself. The story broke my heart and at the same time, through it, God reminded me of my responsibility to my children, to my wife, to my family and friends – to my God – to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.” (Micah 6:8).

I asked myself when I saw that story, “Where were his parents?”

No, I don’t know his backstory, but somewhere along the way, someone failed him. He didn’t grow up with life ambitions of wreaking havoc, stealing for a living, and ruining lives.

I am not absolving him of his guilt - justice should be served - but I am saying that rarely does an individual become such a wreck without several people taking their hands off the wheel and others looking the other way, choosing not to engage him.

We can literally read a different horror story every day of the week.

Just this past Monday, March 27, a 28-year-old former student carried out an attack on a Christian school in Nashville and killed three 9-year-olds and three adults. She was shot and killed by the police during the attack. She had been living with her parents, who did not realize that she had been concealing guns at their home.

That incident was the 19th at a school or university THIS YEAR.

Parents fail – make no mistake about it. I’ve had my share of failures, but today I am certain that our three sons have full confidence that they can come to Vanessa or me with anything on their minds – good, bad, or ugly. The family’s lines of communication portal are always open and nothing trumps my family’s needs. They know that.

Vanessa and I learned long ago that children model many of their behaviors, knowingly and unknowingly, after their parents. What do our children observe from our words and our actions? How about our friends or our co-workers? How about our staff, if you’re in a position to lead? Or our boss, if you’re in a position to follow? Are we men and women our word? Are we men and women of the HOLY Word? We are all influencers.

Before anyone else – pastor, teacher, entertainer, grandparent – we, as parents, are called to guide the tender hearts of our children while they are young.

In Titus 2:7-8, Paul describes how to set a good example in saying, “…show yourself in all respects to be an example of good deeds, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech…” Within this context, Paul describes qualifications for leaders in the church. It also sounds like ideal counsel for a parent - a leader in the home.

God’s standards for leadership require commitment and character that is typified by humility, truth-telling, and honorable actions.

Our children, as well as our spouses and those who know us, need to see our devotion to the Lord played out in more than our words. We need to read and apply God’s word as well as spending quality time with those whom we hold close. We also cannot neglect the incredible power of community. A good church with positive role models is instrumental in supporting us as parents.

“Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids,” Barkley said. That’s absolutely true! But those of us who follow the Lord know that we are all witnesses to a world that sorely needs to see Jesus modeled to the masses.

We all have a responsibility to one another. The wonderful phrase Each One, Teach One is an African proverb that originated in the United States during slavery when Africans were denied education. When someone learned how to read or write, it became their responsibility to teach someone else. The idea is to spread knowledge for the betterment of the community.

Each One, Teach One. No matter what I feel like on a particular day, I must realize I am influencing someone. The greeting I exchange with someone can lift their day or can help it sink a little further down.

As followers of Jesus, each of us carry a debt we can never pay, but we need to present our very best to our King, to our Jesus.

My heart goes out to those victims and their families, but my heart also goes out to those perpetrators. There are so many “causes” – mental illness, a sense of hopelessness and desperation, the various “isms” of society and so much more, but at the same time, what about those closest to them? Did no one have a clue?

Lord, please give me discernment and mindfulness toward those around me. If I see something, let me say something. Above all, may mine and your hearts’ desire to love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly before our God.

Am I a role model? You bet I am. Thankfully, I’m committed to following the example of the One we all need to follow - the Lord Jesus Christ.

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