They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It’s true that we imitate people we admire. So last Sunday when we heard the Apostle Paul say to imitate him (Philippians 3:17), our first reaction may well be…why? Who is Paul to us in the 21st century? Why should we? The answer is is straightforward: because Paul is imitating Christ.
This is the Christian lifestyle. It’s not a matter of copying clothing styles or mannerisms, but the way in which we live by being examples of Christ in our community. From Philippians 3:17-4:1, it’s particularly seen today in the way we love those who are currently living as enemies of the cross, the gospel.
Paul speaks of those who live that lifestyle of being against Jesus as enemies, and yet tells it with tears. For us to imitate Paul is to see those today who live as enemies of the gospel through our own tears. It’s to see them, love them, pray for them, tell them. We tell it with tears not because we are particularly emotional people, we may be but that’s not the reason. We tell it with tears not because we’re good actors and are using methods of manipulation to add effect to the message. Rather, we tell it with tears because that is a natural reaction to seeing the end point of those who are enemies of the cross of Christ – destruction.
There is no joy in hell, and so whilst we acknowledge with tears those who live as enemies, at the same time we speak of our joy in Jesus. That has been the theme of the Philippian series we have been in all autumn, “Joy in Jesus”, and that joy shapes our imitation of Christ.
For it is Jesus who is our Lord and Saviour and example.
It is Jesus who says to not just love your neighbours but your enemy.
It is Jesus who says to pray for those who persecute you.
It is Jesus who says, “Father, forgive them.”
And it is Jesus who ultimately dies for his enemies on the cross, to make us and all who trust in Him citizens of heaven. This is the gospel, and we imitate well by telling it with tears for others as we trust in Jesus.
We imitate imitate Jesus, not out of flattery – but by faith. Would you like to see the difference that Jesus makes to your life(style) too?