Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7.
Celebrities of sport, movies and adventure live under the spotlight of the public’s interest. Various media follow them around to satisfy some strange fascination. People want to pry into their foibles, successes and tastes. Beats me as to why!
Very few ministers would imagine themselves to be ‘celebrities’ or even desire to be under such unrelenting attention. However the passage from Hebrews does highlight the fact, like it or not, this is just what takes place. Over the years preachers have complained about being in a ‘fish bowl’ where folk are constantly looking at them. It is wearisome and does create extra pressures we would rather not have. Yet if handled wisely can become a wonderful tool to show the grace, goodness and glory of God.
Did the writer of this epistle feel concerned by the interest being shown by some disciples to other ‘religious celebrities’? Is there a suspicion about teachings which were contrary to that of Jesus? He directed their minds back to the people who had spoken to them the words of the Gospel. They are reminded of that which brought them into salvation and eternal life. Some of those leaders may have paid a heavy price for their commitment to Jesus as the promised Messiah. Whether living or martyred, such leaders needed to be ‘revisited.’ A thorough scrutiny as to the quality of their words, works and faith was in order. By doing this the distracted disciples would be able to contrast the different types of spiritual and moral leadership. Then the respective ‘fruit’ could be evaluated under the spotlight of Scripture.
What is the outcome of the leaders’ life? We can only guess at what is implied. However then as now there are general and all embracing principles to practice. Writing to a persecuted fellowship the apostle Peter said, ‘Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:8–9) Some imagine the apostle Paul was slightly conceited in his insistence to the readers of Philippians 4:9: ‘Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.’ This isn’t conceit it is our calling. We are to attract men and women to the Lord and Saviour who has made us ‘attractive’ by His grace and power.
This doesn’t mean we will not trip over from time to time. When that happens some will be delighted, some will cry, others will doubt or fear. However as our Lord did with Peter so He will do with us. When Peter realised his error and repented he realised the Lord had prayed for him, never abandoned him. The seeping sore of betrayal was healed through Christ’s forgiveness. Peter’s testimony is not without mistakes but they are not ulcerated sores on his character or ministry. They are the scars which bear testimony to the healing forgiving grace of God in Christ Jesus. As leaders we should not give the impression of being failure proof. To admit we have scars, without necessarily explaining their origins, is our testimony to God’s grace. They also become and encouragement to others that God hasn’t wiped them off His family record.
The writer of Hebrews encourages his readers to imitate the faith of their leaders. This imitation is not a ‘put on show’ as though they were actors. The word is in the continuous tense pointing to an inner compulsion that works itself out in daily life. As leaders we are to set a high standard in behaviour, faith and relationships. This is something only possible by the indwelling Holy Spirit. He is our compulsion to be Christlike. He is the source of imparting Christ’s fragrance. He through us will challenge our ‘scrutineers’ to have a similar compulsion.