Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)
Charles Caleb (1780–1832) said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” The quote has merit when one considers how one may admire another and desire to be like that person but Paul’s exhortation to the saints at Corinth is not simply a glib form of flattery but a manner of living. There are many people we would want to pattern our lives after because of character, achievements or personal traits. The challenge put forth by the Holy Spirit is far beyond the carnal reproductions of human wisdom. Imitating the personage of Jesus Christ is a life changing, soul challenging event of daily molding the character into the image of the Son of God. There is no flattery sought in this change. It has eternal consequences not only for the individual but for those who follow the example left by others. In the context Paul is wanting his brethren to follow his pattern of not giving offense to cause others to lose their faith that they may be saved. The broader teaching is a tremendous challenge to put before all children of God to live in such a manner that others would be influenced by their lives leading to salvation. In other words, I am going to live in such a way that you can safely trust in my example that it will be in the image of Christ so that you can walk in my footsteps and find eternal life. This does not suggest perfection. It demands an attitude of heart that my actions will not hinder someone in serving Christ. The burden is not on the other person but on my life. What I do, how I present myself, the manner of speech, dress, attitude and service to God will be an example that others can follow and find the joy of serving the Lord and to glorify the father. Earlier Paul had exhorted the saints that whatever they did in life to do so for the glory of God. What a rule to live by! Everything in my life is focused on the glory of God. The way I dress gives glory to God. My speech honors the glory of God. Letting my light shine as a disciple of Christ will honor the glory of God. Humility will be my badge of honor that I glorify God with. Imitating Christ is not done as flattery but as cause.
When the gauntlet of righteousness is thrown down it must be in the spirit of imitating or following the pattern of Christ so that others will find salvation. Paul said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” Can I say that in my life?
- Does my example of love help others glorify the Lord or myself?
- If everyone attended worship services like I do will they draw closer to God because I show my faith by being where the Lord wants me to be (like Sunday morning and Sunday night); or do I only come on Sunday morning and sometimes not that often because I have to work or have a headache?
- When it comes to other opportunities of gathering with the saints (like Wednesday night; Sunday morning Bible studies) is my example showing people my devotion to the Lord?
- Imitating Christ is how I choose the clothes I wear and when others see what I wear they will immediately know I am glorifying God; or do my clothes reflect the culture of the day where less is more and the body is to be glorified?
- My speech is seasoned with salt and I can boldly say that imitating my language glories the Father and when others imitate my speech they will draw closer to God; or does gossip, murmuring, lying, filthy talk characterize my speech?
- My daily life is something to be imitated because I try with God’s grace to live an example of moral purity and truth doing the best I can to leave an example in word and deed of Jesus Christ; or does the glass of wine in my hand or beer on the table show the world and other Christians that I am not imitating Jesus Christ but the fleshly desires of the world?
- As a husband and wife am I imitating the word of God in my life where the husband takes the role of spiritual leadership in the home very serious and the wife who understands the blessings of the role of the woman being in subjection to the husband as the church is subject to Christ; or am I an angry and harsh man who treats his wife with disrespect and dishonor; or the wife who refuses to follow the God-given pattern of the home bringing shame to the word of God?
- Can others imitate me as I imitate Christ as I leave an example of parenting where I am training my children to love God and to love His word and to put God first in everything they do in life; or am I more concerned about my children’s academics, sports and recreation so they can be successful in life because that is more important than serving God?
- At work the colleagues that see my life know that I am a Christian and a person of moral integrity and faith because I want them to see that Christ lives in my life; or do I hide that I have any spiritual motives in life and I would be horrified if anyone at my job knew that I was a Christian?
- At my funeral service will it be said that my life imitated Christ or imitated me?
Does my life reflect an imitation of Jesus Christ or does my life reflect an imitation of me? You see friend, what others see in me is what I show them is important in my life. When I live a life of me-me-me no one can see Christ. Too often Christians think they can live one way and serve God another way. It is impossible to serve God and serve the world. Paul placed the challenge before us to say to others, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” and that requires me imitating Christ first. If I cannot say that then my life is out of order with the Lord. He did not suggest perfection which many people use to ignore the command of the Lord. God has never asked us to do something we could not do and imitating Christ is something we all must do so that others can see Christ living in us. Your life (think about this very seriously) – your life will either help someone find eternal life or will hinder it and possibly help destroy it. Every man leaves footprints. Where will they lead the ones who follow in your footsteps?