IMITATION – the way of learning the Way

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!

JDD playing keyboard

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!

At the office (C)

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.

THE BODY OF CHRIST AT WORK JUNGLE VEGETATION!

Tribe landing strip
At the landing strip on an island in The Philippians.

There are times when things come into greater focus for us as we walk along our pilgrim way with Christ.  One of those times occurred when our daughter was on a mission trip to Manila and spent one month with a missionary doctor.  One week per month, he took a flight into a remote island area and treated the tribe located in the bush.  Another missionary family lived there full-time, their house being a hut with a wood fire for the stove.  So, she had the opportunity to live for one week with the tribe, assisting the doctor and learning of life and the people of God as well.

Tribal village
The village waiting for the doctor to come and minister to their needs.

The Body of Christ became very real for her as she worked with the doctor and served the people both in Manila and in the island tribe.  The following is an excerpt of one of her emails to us:

I had some good conversations with Dr. N. on the plane.  We talked about mission life and the differences in the various roles of missionaries.  I think that one of the things that I saw most was the image of the body of Christ.   It takes more than the people in the tribes. It takes all those that are behind them – the missionaries like V. who are in supportive roles.  Most of them go unthanked, but their part is vital.  They take care of the missionary’s orders for food, their errands.  In fact, Mr. B. sent a flat tire to the hanger on one trip and the people in Malaybalay had it fixed and sent back.  Without the supportive roles, so much would not be possible.  None of this would be possible either if it weren’t for the support of those at home with “secular” jobs.  They provide financial, administrative and prayer support. I guess what I learned is the importance of listening to the call of God.  Where is he leading you?  Wherever it is, follow it with all of your heart and let nothing get in the way of that calling.  We all have a part to play.  I also realized the process that God takes us through.  I don’t think that I’ll ever be done learning how to rely on God and not my own strength, but I also know that He’ll never be done trying to teach me.

 

Scripture teaches the same thing that our daughter described.  In 3 John 1, the Apostle says:

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.  Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.

3 John 1:4-8.

 

Supporting the efforts of the pastors, teachers, missionaries and other ministries of the church is part of the calling of each and every Christian.  Once a year attendance or an annual financial gift is not sufficient.  We need to participate in the life of the church and to interact with others who are part of the body of Christ, as we need the encouragement, accountability and support that frequent interaction entails.  When it comes to missionaries and pastors, we are to go the extra mile with our support, encouragement and prayer.

 

Paul talks of the various churches supporting outreach to others in Romans:

I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.   At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints.  For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem.  For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.  When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you.

Romans 15:24-28.

 

And, of course, in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about the physical body and how each individual member of it has a specific role to play in keeping the person healthy and able to accomplish that which has been appointed for her to do. He then equates the physical body of the Christian to the Body of Christ:

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.  And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.

1 Corinthians 12:27-28.

 

So, quoting our daughter: “Where is he leading you?  Wherever it is, follow it with all of your heart and let nothing get in the way of that calling.  We all have a part to play.”

 

Do you know the part you are to play in the Body of Christ?  Ask Him … the Spirit will lead you into it.  Once you know what you are to do, do it … don’t let the body suffer because you are unwilling to do either your job or your share of the work.

Cast yourself into the arms of God and be very sure that if He wants anything of you, He will fit you for the work and give you strength.”

Philip Romolo Neri, (21 July 1515 – 25 May 1595)

 

In short, if you are a Christian, you have a part to play in the body of Christ.  So, do it!

 

 

Father, I pray that we each would follow the Holy Spirit’s lead and embrace the part that You have given us in the Body of Christ.  Forgive us when we have ignored the Spirit’s nudging or when we have shirked our duty after we have been made aware of it.  Help us to run toward the work You have set before us and, in the power of your Spirit, enable us to serve your Kingdom all for your glory and honor, through Christ our Lord, we pray.