A role model is someone who provides us with an example for living and choice-making; someone we desire to follow and emulate, for good or ill. Most of us have someone we look up to, be it a teacher, parent, friend, pastor, or a celebrity.
The Bible recognizes the influence of role models. Parents are natural role models: “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction / and do not forsake your mother’s teaching” (Proverbs 1:8). Church leaders are role models of righteousness: “In everything set them an example by doing what is good” (Titus 2:7). And teachers wield great influence in shaping lives: “Everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher” (Luke 6:40).
If we are unwise in our choice of role models, we run the risk of being led astray and to compromise our beliefs and morals. Proverbs 13:20 warns, “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” Thus, the Bible stresses the importance of finding not only a good role model but a godly one.
Jesus is the perfect role model, of course. Although He suffered the same temptations we do, He remained sinless throughout His life (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus spent much of His spare time in conversation with His Father (Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35), He showed love and compassion (Luke 7:13; Matthew 15:32), and He worked hard (John 5:17; Matthew 9:35). Jesus, the Son of Man, is a role model to all, and there is none better to follow. We are to “follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
Throughout the Bible, the Lord often called imperfect people to act as role models, including Moses, Elijah, King David, Simon Peter, and many others. The apostle Paul often spoke of his important job as a role model for the early church (1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1; Philippians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:5–7; 2 Thessalonians 3:7–9). Peter warned of false teachers within the church who would be negative role models: “Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute” (2 Peter 2:2).
When it comes to finding a good role model, a good thing to consider is whether the person you look up to consistently seeks to imitate Christ (see 1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 Peter 2:21). Does this person display the fruit of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23)? Does he or she strive to live in harmony with others (Romans 12:16)? No human is perfect, and everyone will falter at some point in their lives (Romans 3:23), but if you can answer “yes” to these questions, then you have probably found a good and godly role model.