>Justin Taylor has an excellent post on the biblical command to imitate me as I imitate Christ. This really resonates with me because our church’s mission statement is to Imitate Christ, Tell His Story, and Relationally Engage our neighbor. As we were crafting this statement, we took a long look at what it really means to imitate Christ. Imitation can be a form of great mockery or it can be the highest of compliments. We can imitate something in order to show it as tomfoolery, or we can imitate something because we want to do it exactly that way.
Most of us have no problem talking about imitating Christ, but we tend to get gun-shy when we think about calling others to imitate us. Perhaps this is due to a fear of pride or condescension, a “holier-than-thou” attitude that says I’m better than you. But just like the word imitate can take two almost opposite meanings, so can this command. Taylor lists several of the commands where Paul speaks about imitation. He boldly asserts that his children in the faith are to watch his life and follow him. This leads to two conclusions:
1. His life was lived with such an intention in mind. Paul lived out his faith in practice so that he could be followed, patterned after, and emulated.
2. He understood the importance of patterning and modeling. Could it be that for Paul the Christian life is caught as it is taught? We can speak about prayer until we have exhausted every practice, method, and theological/philosophical area of inquiry, but if we are not praying together, then what is the benefit?
I pray for Paul’s boldness, a boldness that is founded on several truths: 1) All that I am is because of Christ and the grace of God in me. I have nothing to boast about except him alone. Therefore, I can boldly call people to imitate the expressions of grace that they see in me. 2) God has set younger believers underneath me for whom I am to model the Christian life intentionally and deliberately. To not call them to imitate me would be tantamount to ignoring/refusing my calling. 3) Similar to the first, God’s grace IS at work in me, so I cannot make the excuse that there is nothing in my life worth imitating. I cannot accept the lie that I have nothing to offer. As an object of God’s mercy through Jesus, and as a part of the new Temple of God in which God dwells by His Spirit, I have at default a life worth imitating (though I am still in need of great sanctification – refer to 1).
I know that you have people in your life who are looking to you. I hope that you’ll follow Paul’s example in boldly calling them to imitate you as you imitate Christ.