When I was in 6th grade, and just entering the youth group at church, I looked up to older and much 'cooler' high school girls. It occurred to me a couple of months ago that I am the same age as those other girls that I looked up to so much.
A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I were talking about being an example to Believers and non-Believers around us. During this conversation, she really emphasized on how the younger girls in our youth group look up to us and mimic our actions. That kind of hit me hard. I knew others were watching what I did and how I acted, but it never really occurred to me how powerful the impact was. Not only were the younger girls at church watching me, but people of all ages watch how I act.
Looking around in your daily life, you don't know how many people your actions will impact. How you react, how you treat other people, how you stand up for yourself, all affect a person's image of you. Sadly, all it takes is one small bad reaction and a person's view of you is tainted.
I find that especially true with Christians. It's not uncommon to find an un-Believer who doesn't like Christians because they had a bad experience with someone before who was somehow connected to a church or a Christian themselves.
There's nothing we can do about that person's previous experiences, but to just be a role model for them. Just showing them the unconditional love of Christ through our actions will hopefully soften them with time.
(I'm not saying that I am a perfect role model, nor do I expect anyone else to be except Christ. I hope that I can strive to be like Christ and show his love to those around me.)
Paul, to me, is a great role model. The great transformation he went through on the Damascus Road, to imprisonment, ship wrecks, and helping churches get on the right path is a great influence in my life.
'Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ'-1 Corinthians 11:1
'Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of God.' -Hebrews 12:1-2