A few Sundays ago in my message on Biblical parenting by modeling, I referred to an interesting verse from 1 Corinthians 4:16 where the apostle Paul dared to tell his own children in the faith to “imitate me.” That passage always got my attention, first for the audacity of someone saying that to anyone, and then the courage it would take to live such a life that you could confidently tell others to follow your example.
But that was not out of the ordinary at all from the apostle Paul. In those early days in the life of the first-century church, Paul the church planter found himself needing to instruct those followers who had either come from a background steeped in religious legalism, or from pantheistic paganism that had no moral restraints. Rather than just offer them unfamiliar instruction to tell them how to live, he showed them.
On a number of occasions Paul wrote to those early Christians–in Corinth, in Thessalonica, and in Philippi–to follow His lead. Ultimately, he summed up his point in 1 Corinthians 11:1 when he wrote: “Be imitators of me, as I also am of Christ.”
I have to admit, I’m pretty uncomfortable ever asking anyone to “be like me.” I can hardly imagine instructing another Christian to “do what I do” or “say what I say.” It’s more than just some over-spiritualized sense of humility. I’ve lived with myself long enough that I know my example is rarely worthy of following.
But there is a great truth for us about setting an example and having an influence on our world, by modeling the behavior and character and values that reflect our faith in Christ. Whether it be in parenting, where we’re always being watched and regularly being imitated, or in interpersonal discipleship, where we are called to reproduce more disciples (who reproduce more disciples), it’s so very important that the model we set comes from the model we follow, which is Jesus.
Remember the old saying, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” It’s also the sincerest form of genuine discipleship. That was Paul’s method–“Follow me, as I follow Christ“–and that’s what we say to our children and youth, and to those young in the faith who are looking for worthy Christian models to pattern their lives after.
May our lives truly reflect Jesus in all that we do, and may we live in such a way that we can boldy, and yet humbly, say “Imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
I’m praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.