You are being watched. Remember that.
With surveillance cameras nearly omnipresent, including those coursing through the heavens, you are being watched by the government and others. However, to such watching I do not refer.
By the ungodly world you are being watched. For, “a city that is set on a hill cannot be hid” (Matt. 5:14b). Therefore, “let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). To such watching I do not refer.
By your father and mother and all in authority over you, you are being watched. That includes the oversight of the God-appointed overseers in the church (elders) who “watch for your souls” (Heb. 13:17), and thus are called “diligently to look whether every one properly deports himself in his confession and conversation” (Form for Ordination of Elders and Deacons). To such watching I do not refer.
Whether you ascend up into heaven or make your bed in hell, behold, the all-watching eye of Jehovah is upon you. “Dost thou not watch over my sin?” (Job 14:16b). God watches. To such watching I do not refer.
In addition to the aforementioned eyes, you, young people, are being watched by those who look up to you: your younger brother or sister, your younger relative, a kindergartener, a freshman, the one who was pulled up from the junior varsity team, the latest employee at your work, the newest student at your school, the newest member of the committee, your boyfriend or girlfriend’s younger siblings. You are being watched.
Being watched by those younger than you makes you what we commonly call a “role model.” A role model is one to whom others (usually younger ones) look as a pattern to copy for their own speech, behavior, dress, attitude, etc.
Do you ever consider who might be watching you? Consciously take that perspective. Everywhere you go and in everything you do and say, think, “who is watching me and what do they see?” You are being watched. This is true not only for young people but for all of us as adults, parents, teachers, coaches, baby sitters, and office bearers. You and I are being watched.
We do not get to choose to be a role model or when we would like to be one. We are role models always. Whether we think about it or not— and often we do not—others who look up to us are watching us. They watch (listen to) what we say. They watch what we do. They watch where we go. They watch what we do not say. They watch what we do not do. When you walk by at church or the beach or back to the dugout or past their locker they are watching. When the boss or teacher leaves and is no longer watching, they are.
What you do leaves an impression with them. Seeing Christ in you is especially powerful, sometimes more powerful than many words. The godly impression you give can last decades and shape a person. A bad impression can be destructive. Those who look up to you as a role model will mimic. They might be disappointed, or shocked, or amused, or hurt. Their carnal flesh will be surprised and excited, “We can do this? Sons of God may have this? An adult can yell like that at someone? He goes there? She says that? My big brother listens to this in his car? And the devil says, “See, it’s not so bad.” All our instructors said, “No!” but one bad deed by a role model has the power to replace the “No!” with “Yes! And you can do it again tomorrow!” You are being watched. What do those watching see?
The Bible recognizes the reality that we are role models. Paul exhorts young Timothy, “Let no man despise thy youth, but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). 2 Thessalonians 3:7, 9 and similar passages indicate that the apostle Paul knew he was a role model and that he called people to watch and follow him: “For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us, for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you…Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.”
The Bible also gives instruction on how to be a good role model. Three truths stand out.
First, fear God. If as Proverbs 1:7 states, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” then the fear of the Lord is certainly the beginning of the knowledge of being a good role model. Fear God. Know above all else that God is watching you. Live your life in such a way that the worst thing you could ever imagine doing is disrupting your good relationship with Jehovah. If you love God, and adore God, and walk close to God in prayer, and reverence him, and seek his approval, then you cannot but be an outstanding role model. Everything begins with our relationship to and before God. Think about a time when you were a bad example to others. We could all say that it was because we were not seeking the approval of God, but man. You are being watched. Fear God.
Second, look to serve. Jesus was the supreme role model. To say he was merely a role model is gospel-destroying heresy that grounds salvation in our willing and running. Nevertheless, he was a role model. After washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus said “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15). Jesus washed dirty feet. Jesus served. 1 Peter 2:21 instructs, “For even hereunto were ye called; because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow in his steps.” Jesus suffered even unto death for us. Jesus served. He looked to serve others. Look to serve, help, assist, encourage, and give. Think about a time when you were not a good role model; inevitably you were looking to get—some praise, some attention, some laughter, some thing, some self-satisfaction). You are being watched. Look to serve.
Third, be sober. In Titus 2 the inspired apostle gives instruction for godly living to those of all ages. The first thing he says to the aged men is “be sober” (v. 2). He calls the aged women to teach (as role models) the younger women, among other things, “to be sober,” (v. 4). It is as if Paul is teaching Titus how to teach the young men to be role models when he states, “Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you,” (vv. 6-8). Before anything else he says, “be sober minded.” Be sober. Few things can ruin one’s reputation faster than a bottle of alcohol. However, “be sober” means much more than watch what you drink. It means “control yourself.” Think of a time in your life when you were a bad example to the others. Likely you lost control of yourself. We do that. We lose control of our bodies, our tongues, our emotions, and our desires. You are being watched. Be sober.
The power to be a good role model is the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Jesus was always watched. Never could a fault be found. The Pharisees had eyes like modern surveillance cameras and tracked his every move so that Luke 14:1 says, “They watched him.” Blameless he was. In speech, behavior, dress, and attitude he was the model of righteousness. He is our Savior who died and rose again that by his Spirit we might live the life He did and we cannot.
He also died to cover your sins and mine. Jesus died for role model failures, even regrettable mistakes with deep and long-lasting consequences, mistakes that make you feel as if no one will ever look up to you again. Go to the cross. Jesus died for those sins. He died to remove the guilt, shame, and sting.
God is watching us. That can be unsettling. It ought to be if we do wrong. But it is also comforting. You are being watched by God. Young people, receive his approval and be encouraged as good role models. Receive his grace of forgiveness and sanctification when you fall. He is watching. We need to know he is watching in his grace, because others are watching as well. You and I are being watched.