Is greatness contagious? I think so, along with weakness. Both the splendor and sin of the human spirit are cultivated through the companions with which one invests his time. Who you spend time with is not the only variable in our development, but it is a very crucial one.
Always, when you do a little digging, you will find that those truly admirable were inspired by and (to some degree) sculpted by other great men and women surrounding them. Children whose parents are professional athletes or gifted academically seem to have a greater knack for similar accolades. Sure, one can make a case that it’s all in the genes, but surely this is not the main variable in the equation of greatness.
Wisdom, beauty, strength, a strong work ethic – all of these spread to those who witness them. For he who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm (Proverbs 13:20).
The greatness of leader is reflected in their ability to build others up. Great leaders are not a solo act. Their ministries, businesses, or households flourish under their steady hands not only because of individual skill but because of their ability to bring the best out of others. In athletics, good players can dominate a game through their own efforts, but great players win seasons of games and championships because they have the ability to make the whole team better. When you want to ace your math class, it helps to become study partners with the smartest kid in class. If you want to be great, you must learn to be great from someone who has gone before you.
Perhaps this is why Jesus wants us to spend so much time with him (Romans 13:14). He’s our only friend who will check all the boxes of greatness. He is the greatest of all people, through whom and for whom all things were made (Colossians 1:16). He said himself that everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher (Luke 6:40). Do you remember how Jesus taught his disciples? He lived with them, day in and day out. He lavished on them the gift that everyone wanted from him, the only thing that he had a limited amount of to give . . . time. Jesus, the eternal God, limited his public earthly ministry to about three years, making time with him in the physical one of the most favored gifts given to any human ever.
And now, two-thousands or so years later, through the incomprehensible grace of God, we all have the opportunity to spend as much time with Jesus as we dare, for as Ephesians 3:12 states, “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”
If you, like me, deeply desire for your life and personhood to develop into something glimmering of greatness for the glory of God, we must surround ourselves with those who look as we hope to look, think as we hope to think, and believe as we hope to believe. And the person who is far above every other person in every good way is Jesus himself.
To be great for God, we must surround ourselves with those who are on the same journey. But more than that, we must spend our lives in the presence of the greatest person who ever walked the planet, Jesus Christ, God himself.