Edmund Burke forcefully drove home the power of example to influence others in stating, People will learn at the school of example and they will learn at none other. Most secularized people are not about to pick up a Bible and study it. Nor will they bother with church or religion. But when they encounter Christs love, lived out authentically in compassionate service to them, it may well begin them on a journey that leads to encountering the Master. St. Paul affirmed the power of example to influence in penning, Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote itnot with ink, but with God's living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives (2 Cor. 3:2,3a)
Jesus imitated the example of his heavenly Father: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (Jn. 5:19) (See Jn. 5:30; 14:24)
Jesus then used the power of his example to shape his disciples lives. For example, the night before the cross he washed their feet, concluding with this powerful challenge: I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. (Jn. 13:15)
Would the fact that 10 out of the 12 disciples were martyred for going to the ends of the earth proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah suggest that he had shaped their lives by his example?
Thirty years after Jesus ascension Peter wrote about the importance Masters example: Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (I Pet. 2:21) He also wrote instructions to wives on how through the power of example, to influence their deviant husbands:
Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. (1 Pet. 3:1-4) (See I Pet. 5:2,3)
Think about how St. Paul significantly shaped Timothys life by the power of his example: You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance.And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Tim. 3:10a; 2:2)
Paul wrote to the Philippians about the importance of example: Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. (Phil. 3:17) The word pattern here means a proto type; a model.
QUESTION: Are you able with a clear conscience to say to the people whom you are seeking to influence, Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice? (Phil. 4:9a) If not, why not?