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.
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.”
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.”
Eternal consequences, you may ask? What if I don’t want to imitate Jesus?
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
“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.”
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.
- 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?
- 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.