WHO DO YOU IMITATE?

Although he lived long before anyone reading this post was born, Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832) rendered a quotation that many of us know today.  He was an English cleric who was also a writer and collector.  His book, including collections of comments and short essays were wildly popular in their day.  One of his most famous quotes which is still in use today is: “Imitation is the sincerest [form] of flattery”.

Imitation.  Children imitate their parents/caregivers all the time.  We were taking care of a young girl while her mother took some night classes at a nearby school.  She was looking at a Golden Book that we had in the house when she began “reading” to us, as her nursery school teacher would do.  She held the book in her hands and looked at the pages, then turned the book facing us and said “Blah, blah, blah, I don’t want to hear about it!”  After saying this, she turned the page and looked at the next two pages, again flipping the book to face us and repeat the same sing-song-phrase. 

Clearly, this young girl was not actually “reading” the printed word, but she was repeating what she regularly heard at home, complete with the intonation that comes from frustration or anger.  Imitation. 

Even if we are adults, don’t think that our days of imitation are over.  We still imitate others. 

When we were in England a number of years ago, we went to Abbey Road in London.  Since some in our family were alive when the Beatles walked across that road, we had to do so as well.  This is our impression of the Beatles’ classic album cover.

Abbey road

It was a great deal of fun to imitate that walk, although it did not bring us any fame, just some honks by irritated drivers!

On a much more serious note, imitation can take on eternal consequences.  For example, we are to imitate the good that other Christians do in their lives.

“Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.”

3 John 1:11

Most of all, we are to imitate the Son of God, Jesus Christ, our Lord and our Savior.  After Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He told them to imitate His actions.

“For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”

John 13:15

He also said:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

John 13:34

Eternal consequences, you may ask?  What if I don’t want to imitate Jesus?

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

John 14:15

“If you … [then] you…”  The opposite of this, of course, is that if we do not keep His commandments, then we do not actually love Him even if our lips try to say otherwise.

The writer of Hebrews said that we are to imitate the faith of our leaders who faithfully brought the Word of God to us.

“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

Paul put it this way:

“For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.  I urge you, then, be imitators of me.

1 Corinthians 4:15-16

Two questions, thus, come to mind.

  1. Are you obeying Christ’s commandments? Do you love others and serve them in His name?  If not, why not?  Do you really know Jesus Christ as your Savior or are you playing Christian, rather like playing a part in a play? 
  2. Is your life, your witness, your love for the Lord such that you could say the same thing that Paul said? “I urge you to imitate me.”  Is your way of life revealing the strength of faith you have in Jesus Christ?  If not, why not?  If so, can others find Jesus Christ by imitating you?

Imitation.  So easy that a child can do it.  So hard that many will run from its demands.  So much a blessing that it provides grace and abundant living in the here and now, as well as forever more.

Father, I pray that I would be a witness for Your Son, Jesus Christ and that Your Spirit would strengthen me as I seek to imitate Him and His love for others.  Enable me to live so that others can imitate me and grow stronger in their faith and in their devotion to my Lord.

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.