Dear Marketplace Friend,
"Forget this, 'What would Jesus do?' bracelet business. Here's my counsel: you watch me, do what you see me doing. I'm following Jesus; you follow me." How's that for arrogance?
Careful with your answer; I've just paraphrased a verse from Paul's first letter to the culturally-compromised church in Corinth. These were people who thought they were much more "together" - in terms of spiritual maturity - than they really were. In truth, they were dealing with pretty weird stuff in their own ranks. The influence of their surroundings had them in sin. Paul's order: "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). That's what leaders are supposed to do: set the example. Make the invisible Jesus real, by allowing him to live through them.
We give people way too much credit for "individuality" and "free thinking." People are sheep; God used that analogy throughout his bestseller... and people in every generation confirm the comparison. They are going to follow someone; the only real question is... who will they follow?
You may have seen the report, a couple of weeks ago. A "groundbreaking study by the Centers for Disease Control" that explored the beliefs and practices of teenagers in American... on the subject of sex.
Things that never come up at the dining room table in suburbia were the line-items in the survey. Young men and women were prodded about their personal experiences in the unmentionables. What they heard is too racy for me to recount here (though it was splashed across the front-section pages of USA Today on October 19th - under the headline "Teens Define Sex in New Ways" - and now web available).
Here's as far as I'll go: they found that HALF of the 15- to 19-year-olds participate in oral sex... and believe that if they confine themselves to that degree of sexual intimacy, they remain a "technical virgin."
From the article: "'To adults, oral sex is extremely intimate, and to some of these young people, apparently it isn't as much,' says Sarah Brown, director of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. 'What we're learning here is that adolescents are redefining what is intimate.'
Among teens, oral sex is often viewed so casually that it needn't even occur within the confines of a relationship. Some teens say it can take place at parties, possibly with multiple partners. Still, some experts are increasingly worrying that a generation that approaches intimate behavior so casually might have difficulty forming healthy intimate relationships later on."
Why the big shift, in one generation, from what parents felt about something so personal and their teenaged kids? The related articles proposed an answer: these are the young adults who came-of-age while the national spotlight was on a young woman (dare I say, "role model?") and... our elected leader, President Bill Clinton. "It depends on what the meaning of 'is' is" was the kind of rationalization that these impressionable young people heard during the dinner hour on the national news. Their values compass was being calibrated.
In Washington today, the political fire-fight has been unrelenting. One "camp" of flame-throwers propose that the current president's actions - in pursuit of national security - in Iraq are far more damaging to America than the "indiscretions" of the former president and his personal practices in the Oval Office, with a young woman who was interning there. Are they right? Are "private acts" - made public - harmless?
The effects of the War in Iraq are easier to measure and lament; the effects of Monicagate are more invisible to the naked eye... but they are showing up in the naked acts of a new generation who have had Sex and the City - and the actions of high-visibility national leaders - as their value-setting benchmarks.
We use the "Zero Tolerance" standard for speed limits and shoplifting; it's time to use the same firm boundary-enforcement approach in our expectations of leaders in our society.
For that matter... how about we do that with leaders in the home, and in the church? "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ..."
Irritated by the erosion of integrity, but out to speak out. Follow my example...