Did you know that in the original language of the Bible, there is no punctuation? No capitalization, no periods, no paragraphs… not even any chapter and verse numbers. My Bible passage today reflects how those items were later arranged, and sometimes not very well. But the statement is as true today as it was for the original readers in the first century.
To put this into context. I want you to think about your family and raising your kids. Take a look at 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. – (1 Corinthians 11:1)
In his final word on the whole issue of eating meat offered to idols, Paul tells the Corinthians, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Notice how 1 Corinthians 11:1 really goes at the end of 1 Corinthians 10:33. Historically, this statement reflects a classic view of education and discipleship. The teacher instructs, not just through words, but also through his actions. Jesus, for example, chose his closest disciples to be with him (Mark 3:13-14) so that they might hear his teaching and so that they might observe his behavior in order to imitate it.
But Paul tells these Corinthians, not just to model themselves after Jesus, but he challenges them to also imitate him (as he imitates Christ). When I first read this, I felt it might seem a little arrogant. Why not just say “Be imitators of Christ”? Who does Paul think he is?
Well, he thinks he is one who has been sent by God to bring the Gentiles into relationship with Jesus Christ and to help them to grow in that relationship with Christ. In this role, Paul is not just the deliverer of the message, but also the living example of the message. We see this clearly in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians: “Our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 1:5-6)
How would you respond if Skip or I stood up on Sunday and said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ?” Would that seem arrogant? Out of place? Or would that be exactly the kind of pastoral leader you need, and that God will bless?
How about in your family? Can you stand before your wife and children and say, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ?” It’s not to say that you are perfect, but that you are a man seeking God and following Christ, learning of Christ and actively embracing the “with Him” principle (Mark 3:13-14).
The fact that we fail at times (to be the example of Christ) does not invalidate the effort. Those who lead do so, not only through words, but also through actions.
So ask yourself:
- How would you respond if one of your leaders actually said, “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ?”
- Why would you respond this way?
- Have you ever said anything like this? Why or why not?
- Where in life has God called you to be an example of the truth, someone who imitates Christ so that others might be more Christ-like by imitating you?