Who Do You Imitate? (a meditation on the people we follow and the lives we live)

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. ~ 1 Corinthians 11:1

Think about your childhood hero—the person when you were young who you wanted to be like when you grew older. Think about his or her life now that you have more perspective: was he or she truly worthy of imitation?

Paul told the church at Corinth to imitate him. But he wasn’t interested in creating a bunch of little Pauls. It wasn’t his moments of weakness or failure he wanted them to mimic. Instead, he wanted them to follow what was Christ-like in him.

As followers of Jesus we are to become more like Jesus in our character, our purpose, and our love for others. God has given us his word telling us about Jesus and showing us his life, so we learn from it to follow. God has also given us something more visual: the lives of other faithful Christians.

These are men and women who have walked the walk and talked the talk. These are men and women who are a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us and showing us the ways of Jesus (Hebrews 11-12). Each one has a different personality, a different style, a different job, different experiences, and a different set of gifts; but each also has eyes focused on Jesus and they seek to do all things for his glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Who are the people you look to? Who are your examples? How are you at being an example for others?

Three things mark the lives of the people we are to imitate and the type of people we should be so others can imitate us. First, a great love and passion for God. Paul wrote that whatever we do, we are to do all things for God’s glory. Do the people I follow live their lives in such a way (and do I live my life in such a way) that God’s glory defines my priorities? Do we have honoring him in mind when we are in public around others, alone with our family, in front of our tv, or driving on the road? We are to love God and pursue his glory above all.

Second, a great love for others and a concern for their good. Paul wrote of Christian liberty in reference to a question the Corinthians asked about meat sacrificed to idols. In Christ there is great freedom, all things are lawful; but in Christ we must have great concern for our neighbor, not all things build up. So Paul wrote, “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor” (10:23-24). Do the lives of the people I follow (does my life) show more concern for my neighbor’s good than for my own desires, liberties, and pleasures?

Third, a passion for others to know Jesus. Paul said, “I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved” (10:33). His point was we should strive to do all things without causing needless offense. The gospel itself is offensive enough to people who are not following Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:23). We should watch ourselves, our actions, and our words to avoid adding additional offense. Do the people I follow do this (do I do this)? After all, our hope is to lead people to the good news of great joy that they might find life in Jesus as we have. Putting up fences and driving wedges will never accomplish that.

Love God, love others—that is the core of what Paul taught. That is what Paul called others to imitate in him as he imitated Jesus. Do the people you follow have those same desires? Do you seek to make such love the passion of your life for others to follow?

This post is part of our ongoing journey though the Bible as a church.

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