Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)
The art of imitation is the ability to replicate the total character of another into the spirit of self. Florence Nightingale said, “People talk about imitating Christ, and imitate Him in the little trifling formal things, such as washing the feet, saying His prayer, and so on; but if anyone attempts the real imitation of Him, there are no bounds to the outcry with which the presumption of that person is condemned.” Imitation is following the pattern of something established mimicking the complete essence and character of the object copied. Paul was bold to exhort the brethren to imitate him as he imitated Christ. On a personal level it is a challenge to mold ones character to be like Christ. Asking others to follow the example of life followed by the individual is a larger test asking others to look carefully at their lives and mimic what they say and do. All of this must be governed by the need to imitate life after the example of Jesus Christ. Eight words placed Paul squarely in the sights of the brethren to open up his life, examine his life and seek to pattern their attitudes, actions and life after another man. Pride did not lead the apostle to seek this investigation but humility to show others how much he tried to form his life into the image of the divine. Later Paul would call himself the worst sinner known to man. He was not a perfect man and praised the Lord for His infinite mercy to grant eternal grace to the man who once was a blasphemer of truth. Now he is asking brethren to imitate his life as he seeks to follow the pattern of Christ. The context of his letter to Corinth was to exhort the brethren to be concerned with their attitudes toward others and not to give offense to the Jews, Greeks or to the church of God. He pleaded with the Corinthians to imitate his life in dealing with those things lawful and unlawful. What makes the appeal stronger is that Paul lived in such a manner he could in good consciousness plead with the saints to imitate him. If the apostle had not patterned his life in such a way, they would be hesitant to follow after Paul.
All of God’s people are enjoined to be like Christ. The spirit of God should be the whole of man’s character in love, deeds, kindness, words and attitudes toward others. Many passages address the molding of the Christian character to the image of God through the example of Jesus. Walking in the footsteps of Jesus is carefully patterned lives that follow the path of the Lord in truth, righteousness and holiness. The real test of servitude is whether an exhortation can be given for others to follow the individual example as a pattern of truth, righteousness and holiness. Everyone leaves an impression upon the hearts of others whether good or bad. A key ingredient in the life of a Christian is how others see them and understand them. Often little concern is given to what other people see in the lives of a child of God but every life is a reflection of the Father. Like in the physical family the actions and demeanor of the children reflects the values and attitudes of the parents. When people of the world see God’s children playing in the frolic of carnality they view the heavenly Father with the disdain of hypocrisy. It is sad to think of the souls who were tainted with the imitation of God’s children who were not emulating the spirit of Christ. When envy, strife, hatred and division exist in the family of the Lord it reflects to the world a sour note of discord that will only bring harsh judgments of condemnation for the pretense seen in their lives. Yet the example of godliness in the hearts of disciples of Christ will help others see the joy of eternal life in the blessing of God’s word.
Imitating Christ allows the life of a Christian to shine as a light to the world. Jesus told the mountain multitude that what the world needed to see was God living in their lives. When the life of Christ lives in the life of the Christian he or she is setting forth a pattern of truth for others to see and follow. This is not the only means of conversion but it has a huge impact on the reception of grace through the exemplary life seeking to follow the word of God. It takes courage to ask others to follow the example of self. First self must be molded to Jesus Christ so that what others follow is the character of the Son of God. When life is governed by the example of Christ greater joy will be found in the heart, soul and mind and security of knowing that what others see they can emulate and follow. May all of God’s children present their hearts in such a manner they can boldly say to others, “Imitate me just as I also imitate Christ.”