“I appeal to you, then, be imitators of me. ” 1 Corinthians 4:16
Before I went into ministry, I worked in the corporate world. I rode the train into Philadelphia every morning. This was a time when both men and women wore business suits every day. I had suits with skirts and suits with pants. And many of the men wore 3 piece suits, mostly with however, white or tan shirts. These were the uniforms of the day.
One year, we hired a new senior executive from outside the company. From the very beginning, he set a new style. He wore pink shirts, and frequently sported a bow tie. Almost every day, while others wore ordinary white or neutral business shirts, he wore a pink shirt and bow tie with his suit. And despite his colorful wardrobe, he also began to move up in the company, receiving promotions and gaining power and status. It wasn’t long before pink shirts started showing up on junior executives in his own and other departments. They wanted to be like him!
Imitation, it has been said, is the purest form of flattery. It’s also a natural reaction to seeing another’s success. When basketball stars wear a particular brand of shoe, there are many who go out and buy that same shoe, hoping to be like LeBron James or Stephan Curry. When a movie star endorses a beauty product saying she uses it, women will flock to the store to buy the same product. And unfortunately, when a powerful public figure spews hate and discrimination, there are some in our society who will rush to imitate.
Just this summer, the Wellesley, Mass. school system reported that racist, anti-immigrant, and homophobic online posts had been made by Wellesley High School students. This is in an affluent, upscale suburb of Boston, and this kind of language had never been an issue there before. Over the last year, we have heard too many racist comments and slurs against people groups, words that were likely imitated by these youth. Is this what we want our culture to become?
The Apostle Paul says “Imitate me!” And in 1 Corinthians, he expands that: “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ!” We don’t imitate Paul because we want to be like Paul; we imitate him because we want to be like Christ. God sent us not a book of instruction, but a person, the Son, to show us how to live. He is to be the one we imitate.
Paul makes it clear in Philippians what that kind of life looks like. “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Let these attitudes fill your heart and direct your life. Let us keep our focus on the God of Jesus Christ who calls us to live holy lives of love, grace and truth..
Prayer: Heavenly master, help me to keep my eyes on you and your son, Jesus Christ. Let my life reflect your love. Let my heart be filled with your goodness. Let those who look at me see a child of your kingdom who strives each day to be worthy of the grace you have given me. For I ask it in Christ’s holy name. Amen.