One day, several years ago, while driving through an intersection, a car turned right in front of me and caused me to slam my brakes. After getting on my way (and proud of myself for not saying a word) my daughter, who was five years old at the time, leaned forward from the back seat and asked me, “Dad, is that guy an idiot?” Kids often imitate their parents in everything, whether good or bad. This is no less true for adults. When it comes to Christianity, the faith is passed on not just from individuals reading their bibles in seclusion, but is handed down from person to person. Christians learn from leaders how the faith is lived out and practiced, not primarily from listening to sermons, but through imitating what they see. It is good for us to ask the question: who do I imitate? We pass on things we learn from others, so it is imperative that we learn from the right people.
“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” We must imitate those Christian leaders who have a proven character in persevering in the faith in the face of pain and suffering, and have done it with great humility. This does not necessarily mean that we emulate those who eruditely speak the Word of God, have superior gifts and abilities, and enjoy success in ministry. It does mean that we ought to imitate, and have as mentors, those persons who imitate Christ and are not self-promoting peacocks who go after being admired and praised.
We are to imitate those who have proved themselves in hardship. A Christian leader who has not undergone the purgative fires of trials in this life may more easily become seduced by their own importance. However, leaders who have seen their share of hard circumstances, pain, and suffering, and have come through it loving God and serving others out of grace and humility, are leaders worth imitating. So whom will you follow? What Christians will serve you well as good models of faith and ministry?
Sovereign God, you graciously bring people of faith into our lives. Thank you for bringing many people to my life over the years who have served as good models of Christian faith and practice. Help me to continue learning, as well as modeling for others, how a Christ follower really speaks, lives, and acts. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.