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Lessons in Imitation

Posted by on Nov 19, 2012 in community, discipleship, fellowship, scripture | 5 comments

Lessons in Imitation

As I’ve mentioned several times lately, we’re studying through Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus (Ephesians) when we gather together with the church on Sundays. Of course, our discussions usually spill over into times of conversation and encouragement during the week as we see each other in homes, restaurants, parks, wherever.

This last week, we were scheduled to study the first half of chapter 5 together. As I continued studying through the letter and as I focused on chapter 5 last week, I was intrigued by the first few verses of that chapter.

It starts like this:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV)

I realized when I read this that I had been pretty jaded. Do you understand how shocking it is to be told to “imitate God”? It truly is jarring when you think about it. Of course, Paul followed that up with “walk in love,” and not just any kind of love, but the same love that Jesus Christ demonstrated when he gave up his life for us.

But, going back to that idea of being imitators… there are many instances in Scripture in which the authors exhort the readers to be “imitators.” I started reading through these difference passages, and I was reminded how important imitation is for followers of Jesus Christ.

Here are a few of the passages:

I urge you, then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church. (1 Corinthians 4:16-17 ESEV)

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1 ESV)

And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7 ESV)

For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews… (1 Thessalonians 2:14 ESV)

For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. (2 Thessalonians 3:7-9 ESV)

And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:11-12 ESV)

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)

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 ESV)

While most of these examples are from Paul’s letters, at least one is from a different author. (Perhaps two are fum a different author, if Hebrews was not written by Paul.) In fact, the most general exhortation is from John when he writes, “Do not imitate evil, but imitate good.”

So, why do you think imitation was so important to these early followers of Jesus?


5 Comments

  1. 11-20-2012

    I think of imitation in the way a young boy imitates his father, following him around and doing what he does. In the process, the knowledge from one generation is passed on to the next. It would have been even more meaningful in that day when trades were passed from father to so. Contextually it makes sense, especially in the passages where to word for imitate is followed by the word ginoma–to become like.

    Paul in fact flat out says as much in Ephesians 5:1; “THEREFORE BE imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father].”(AMP) I believe that this was important not to just early believers, but us as well. As we imitate our Lord, we become more like Him. Further this is at the core of true disciplining, we follow Jesus, and like Paul, invite others to follow us. In that context, imitation becomes a core element of the Great Commission.

  2. 11-20-2012

    I think Kevin’s comment sums up the idea best. (Kevin should start a blog.)
    It’s interesting to me that some of these verses have a kind of repetition that borders on the poetic.
    One says ‘be imitators’ and ‘to remind’.
    Another, ‘became imitators’ and ‘became an example’.
    Again, ‘became imitators’ and ‘suffered the same things’.
    And ‘Remember’ and ‘imitate’.
    And of course the obvious, ‘imitate us, because [we gave you] an example to imitate’, and ‘show the same [so you may be] imitators’.
    This article reminds me of the scripture that says, “How can two walk together unless they are agreed?” When we walk with God we are, by definition, imitating Him.
    And the one that says, “Take my yoke on yourself.” If we are yoked to Jesus we will of necessity imitate Him.
    Thanks for writing this article. God bless.

  3. 11-20-2012

    I like how this ties into the flipside in your post “Discipleship by Example” http://www.alanknox.net/2010/10/discipleship-by-example-2/

  4. 11-20-2012

    Thanks Nelson, I actually do, although I am not nearly so faithful and prolific as Alan. I have also not yet mastered “pithy.” I admire Alan’s ability to keep it short and sweet and am consciously working to improve on this. I guess you could say I want to be like Alan when I grow up. LOL!
    http://watchersonthewall.wordpress.com/

  5. 11-26-2012

    Kevin,

    Thanks for the great comment and for linking to your blog. For some reason, I did not have your blog in my Google Reader, but I have rectified that mistake. :)

    Nelson,

    Yes, I agree. I love that each passage points to a different thing to “imitate,” but of course, they’re all related.

    Art,

    Example and imitation go hand-in-hand, I think.

    -Alan

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