Imitating others is a biblical principle for effective discipleship. We must choose wisely who to follow, while staying authentic to ourselves. It’s not an easy task!
One spring day, while sitting at the piano practising drills, I became acutely aware the musical phrases were being echoed just outside my window. Perched among the blossoms of the flowering plumb, a small grey-feathered, non-descript, bird eyed me intently. Over the next five minutes, I tested his reciting ability, only to have this talented little mimic follow my lead precisely.
For some reason I felt deeply saddened when he took flight and our musical conversation ended. Though excellent at imitating, I never did hear his song or appreciate his individual melody.
We must first come to acknowledge our own God-given identity, nature and calling before we will effectively live it out. Without even realizing it, we can begin to imitate those around us and lose the essence of our uniqueness. In so doing, everyone misses out!
“If two people think the same thing
about everything, one of them isn’t necessary.”
Peer pressure isn’t just something teenagers deal with! We all face it! The catchy clichés, snappy lyrics, and emotion grabbing images of advertising are aimed at capturing our attention and influencing our decisions. Peer pressure of sorts!
“I praise you because
I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.”
There are no duplicates with God! No carbon copies of you! Why? Because God has a specific purpose in mind!
You alone can connect with others through your specific gifting, talents, perspectives, history, personality. Only you can bring your special combination of joy, compassion, and sensitivity to the people around you. God has given you an individualized ability to create, design, and solve problems. He has planted you specifically where you are to influence, encourage, and make a positive difference.
How authentic are we willing to be? You totally being you! Me really being me!
The little mockingbird has the capabilities to even imitate a cat, his fiercest and much larger enemy! This bird’s ability to imitate or “mock” other sounds, beyond its own song, is actually how it got its name.
For people, however, parroting the pattern of others can lead to problems.
At one point Paul sharply confronts Peter for doing just that. Fear caused Peter to wrongly imitate others!
“… I opposed (Peter) to his face,
because he stood condemned.
For before certain men came from James,
he used to eat with the Gentiles.
But when they arrived,
he began to draw back and separate himself
… because he was afraid
of those who belonged
to the circumcision group.”
Fear and the need to belong can potentially draw us away from being true to ourselves and God’s purposes. Peter, by imitating others, caused many people to stumble spiritually!
“…they were not acting in line
with the truth of the gospel…”
It takes strength to stand alone under pressure. This strength comes when we know who we are and to Whom we belong.
Living fully in the uniqueness of our identity in Christ sometimes calls for a change of direction. Many aspects of the world threaten to draw us into unfruitful conformity.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test
and approve what God’s will is
–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
The “pattern of this world” is to create clones — in organized mass production — carbon copy reflections of the latest craze. The enemy of our souls delights in incarcerating us in his prison of conformity.
Rather than align ourselves with the world’s pattern, we often need to disagree, disregard, ignore and even reject it. Powerful action is required to break free from the downdraft that threatens to deny the potential hidden within our unique identity in Christ.
“Don’t let your character change colour
with your environment.
Find who you are
and let it stay in its true colours.”
(Columbine Martyr, Rachel Joy Scott)
Be assured God does have a perfect colour, His “good, pleasing and perfect will”, for each of us! His design will be clearly seen as we turn from the world around us toward Him.
It isn’t surprising that Jesus invited people to follow. He called out to Peter and his brother Andrew,
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said,
“and I will send you out to fish for people.”
That door of opportunity remains open! His words still resonate with anticipation! When He washed the disciple’s feet, He said,
“I have given you an example.
You should do as I have done for you.”
In following Christ’s example, we become imitators of Him and find our otherwise hidden purpose and meaning. Though there are similarities in us as Christ-followers, how we actually walk out our lives will vary when we stay true to ourselves.
Among other things, “follow me” includes:
- Accepting Christ as Saviour and Lord (Matthew 16:24)
- Becoming a servant of all (Matthew 25:28)
- Forgiving others even as God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32)
- Loving unconditionally (1 John 4:16)
To truly “be ourselves”, we must first be “like Christ!” Each of us is made in the image of God. Yet, each of us represents that image from a slightly different perspective. It is impossible to be fully you or fully me, without being like Him!
Watching sons mimic their fathers and daughters reflect their mothers can be humorous, challenging and sobering. Wanting to emulate those we esteem is inherent in us all, Everyone desires to belong within a community.
Paul boldly tells others,
“Follow my example,
as I follow the example of Christ.”
1 Corinthians 11:1
In imitating others, wisdom will guide us to chose those who consistently pattern themselves after Christ!
That word “follow”, “Mimetai”, is the Greek word from which “mime” originates and means to imitate. Paul tells us to closely follow his living example to “the same degree and manner” that he is imitating Christ.
Take an honest look at those in the lead. Are they following Christ? Are they living in the fullness of God’s call in their personal lives?
“Those who say they live in God
should live their lives as Jesus did.”
1 John 2:6
May we find a way to both follow godly examples while faithfully leading those who are stepping into rhythm with our own footsteps.
Let faith move us to live authentically, refusing to settle for “average” or the status quo. May we be propelled to rise to the fullness of our God-given capabilities.
Perhaps, there is an artistic expression
only you can deliver.
Someone is waiting to hear the story
only you can tell.
You alone have the exact match
of audacity and patience,
fortitude and meekness,
gentleness and fierceness
that God needs right now,
right where you are at.
So live boldly! Live graciously! Live for God’s glory and the benefit of others.
“Whatever you do, work heartily,
as for the Lord and not for men,”
Let’s not be like the mockingbird; may the world be imprinted by the genuine mark of our lives. By following Christ and imitating others who walk closely with Him, let’s each discover our own unique “normal”.