Guides and Fathers (1 Corinthians 3-4)
Reprinted from yesterday's From Garden to City Blog.
Toddlers are sponges. And parrots. My two-year-old niece Ruthie has begun copying everything she sees and hears. My sister Laura told me of a recent traffic incident in which she yelled out “You jerk” to a reckless driver who had cut in front of her, and from the back seat, she heard a tiny voice echo, “jerk.” Laura recognized it was time to start watching her language and reactions more carefully. Ruthie’s growth over the next few years will come primarily from the imitation of her parents.
The passage that struck me the hardest from today’s reading was 1 Corinthians 4:15-16, “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.”
There are lots of people who can give us instruction about our spiritual journeys-- telling us where to go, how to get there, and what to do once we are there. But being a spiritual parent is a much more important and daunting task. Especially since the primary job is to simply say, “imitate me.” On one hand, that makes the process of discipleship a lot easier. We don’t have to be seasoned theologians or learned Bible scholars; we simply have to be willing to invite another person into our lives and give them a lifestyle worth imitating. But then, that’s what makes discipleship so difficult. We are saying “imitate me,” and if I’m being honest, I can’t point to many moments during my average day that I would want people to imitate.
If we look at the other writings of Paul, we find that this charge to “imitate” is found in a number of places. Check them out:
1 Corinthians 10- “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ”
Philippians 3:17- “join in imitating me”
Philippians 4:9- “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me-- practice these things.”
2 Thessalonians 3:7-9- “You yourselves know how you ought to imitate us”
2 Timothy 3:10-11- “You...have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings”
Take just a moment and think over your day so far. What moments were worth imitating? Which were not? What regular practices do you engage in as a Christ follower that are worthy of imitation?
And while you are thinking about this paradigm of discipleship, who are you imitating? And who is imitating you?