When my oldest was about 3, he was my buddy.
By buddy, I mean that he went everywhere that I went…
I had to be careful I didn’t run him over if I was in a hurry in the house. If I was working in the yard, he was working in the yard.
If I was working in the house, he was working in the house.
If I liked broccoli, he liked broccoli.
Like the child’s doll jingle from the mid-eighties:
“My buddy, my buddy,
Wherever I go He goes
My buddy, my buddy,
I’ll teach him everything I know…..”
I realized the implications of all of this one day when he was asked what he wanted to eat.
His reply, “I’ll have what daddy have.”
No pressure dad.
He watched me intently.
He was actively learning about life from observing me.
He was discovering what faith is by seeing it displayed in me.
He was, most definitely, imitating me.
This past Sunday I spoke about imitation as it related to Paul’s writings to the Philippians. Paul was interested in who his churches imitated. It made a difference to him.
Here’s what he says:
Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.”Philippians 3:17-4:1
For Paul, there are two ways to live:
· Those who live according to the example of Jesus.
· Those who live as enemies of the Cross of Christ.
These two ways of living imitate two different world views.
These two ways have very different outcomes.
Paul wants to make sure that his readers understand this.
Because who you follow determines who you will become.
Hitler or Gandhi.
Mr. Putin or Mr. Rogers.
Imelda Marcos or Mother Teresa.
The world according to Jesus
Or the world according to the culture.
Imitating the culture makes us focused on the culture.
And the culture changes.
It can pivot on a dime when you least expect it.
It is beholden to the whims of the cultural elite.
With the culture, morality goes in and out of fashion as it benefits the culture. There are no constants other than a toxic narcissism and world of me first.
It is selfish.
It is inward focused.
It sets its mind on earthly things.
It demands obedience.
It requires adherence.
It offers no respite.
Cross the culture and it will deal harshly with you.
Fall out of step and it will abandon you.
Get hooked in and it will make you an addict of the now.
Which can be very unhealthy.
And life changing.
And heart changing.
Which is why Jesus warns,
“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Imitating Jesus directs us to focus on the other.
It invites us to allow the death of Christ to be the life within us,
echoing the words of Paul in Galatians,
I have been crucified with Christ,
it is no longer who lives,
but Christ who lives in me.”
It makes us heavenly-minded.
Grounded in Truth.
Oriented to the long-term.
Open to a changing and softening of the heart.
Willing to look honestly at who we are and who God calls us to be.
And, in turn, makes us examples to others.
Beacons of hope that life can be different.
Waypoints on the path of faith for others to lock into.
It is the fulfillment of the call of Jesus to,
It is a direct response to the love God shows us.
And it is our call.
To invite others out of the chaos.
To extract them from the mess.
To share with them the hope found in the person of Christ.
By simply living a life of faith.
By imitating those who have gone before.
That others may imitate us.
And share in the joy that is salvation.
From the world.
From the culture.