Become my imitators, as I imitate Christ. — 1 Corinthians 11:1
This is a text that makes most of us very uncomfortable. There are at least three possible reasons for this.
First, we are afraid of pride. How can we tell people to follow our example without pride or self-righteousness? Surely the person who says, â€œFollow my exampleâ€ is a person who feels that he has attained it all, that if people would just become like him, they would be oh so much better off.
Second, however, is the opposite. We are afraid we won’t hold up. We use the common saying, â€œChristians aren’t perfect, just forgivenâ€ as a standard excuse. We hold that up to the world, giving the message, â€œPlease don’t look at me. I might give you a bad impression of Christianity.â€ Is it any wonder that sometimes our testimony can’t get through the excuses?
Third, we feel that the right thing, the pious thing, is to point people immediately to Jesus. It seems so arrogant to suggest people follow our example when the example of Jesus is available to them.
But Paul in this passage makes that frightening statement to the Corinthian church. Imitate me as I imitate Jesus. But Paul wasn’t a person who thought he had already attained (Philippians 4:12). Yet even in that letter he asks the believers in Philippi to live in a way that is worthy of the gospel (Philippians 1:27).
But even though he doesn’t claim to have attained to everything God wants him to accomplish, Paul is not afraid to tell people to follow his example. Now Paul was an apostle, but I don’t think that really makes a difference here.
There are people out there who can look at you, but who are not ready to make the jump from the life of Jesus to their day to day existence in the 21st century. They need to know that someone they can see, someone they can call on the telephone, someone who experiences problems that are the same as theirs are can follow Jesus and make a new life. They need to know that Christianity is working for someone here and now. If your testimony is that Jesus has saved you by his grace, that is a testimony you should have.
The fact that you’re not perfect isn’t a problem here. What you have to show them is how an imperfect person in a troubled world can become a disciple. They need an example they can see of how to follow Jesus now. It’s not pride or arrogance to be that exampleâ€”it’s obedience.
Let’s all try to be examples that others can follow this week.