We all know that children learn by imitating their caregivers, whether it be parents, grandparents, day care workers, or anyone else who provides care and input into their lives. Indeed, they even imitate what they see and hear on television, a sobering thought to be sure!
When our grandson was young, he would play the keyboard as if he was playing the piano, something he had seen me do. Then, too, he would imitate his Papa by using the computer in the home-office, keyboarding with the abandon only a young child can muster!
But, children need to be discriminating in selecting who they imitate. I recall my Mother’s admonition about imitating people “If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you?” In short, we must learn who deserves the high honor of our imitation.
This is as true in our Christian life as it is in our physical life. We are not to imitate someone who preaches something other than the Gospel of Christ as found in Scripture. The Apostle John warns:
Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good.
3 John 1:11a ESV
So who are we to imitate? First and foremost: Jesus.
If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.
John 13:14-15 ESV. Another time Jesus spoke of imitation related to loving each other:
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
John 15:12 ESV
Even Jesus’ command that the disciples were to love each other was based on imitating how Jesus had loved them.
In addition to Jesus, Paul says this to the believers in Philippi:
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.
Philippians 3:17 ESV.
Just think, Paul’s life was so controlled by the Spirit of God that he could safely encourage the believers in the churches to imitate himself, further telling them that they should only follow those who live by the example that he set for them.
In urging prayer for the leaders in the church, the writer of the book of Hebrews says:
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
Hebrews 13:7 ESV
Look at the life that the leader is living; look at the witness, at their honesty, at their integrity, at their fidelity to the Word of God. Look at the entirety of their way of life and then, and only then, imitate their faith.
G. K. Beale said:
Christians are like pilgrims passing through this world. As such they are to commit themselves to the revelation of God in the new order so as progressively to reflect and imitate his image and increasingly live according to the values of the new world, not being conformed to the fallen system, its idolatrous images, and associated values.
G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999), p. 175.
Some questions to ruminate upon:
- Are you imitating someone who is guiding and uplifting you in your Christian pilgrimage through this world?
- Are they deserving of your imitation, and if so, are you praying that they remain strong in their faith and witness to you and to others? Are you encouraging them in their walk with the Lord?
- What would happen if someone were to imitate you? Would they grow in their understanding of the Christian walk?
- Can you say, like Paul, “join in imitating me”? If you cannot say this, what do you need to do to realign your life with Scripture so that you can be the witness that deserves to be imitated by those less mature in the faith?
Father, we know that children learn and imitate us even when we are unaware that they are doing so. I pray that I would be someone whose life would lead children and adults alike into a life with the Lord Jesus and that I would be a consistent witness for Him.