Paul is next getting into instructions for the behavior of the church. He starts chapter 11 with a bold statement:
1 Corinthians 11:1
11 Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
This verse has always frustrated me. It frustrates me because I feel like I will never be in a place where I can say the same things to others. Maybe this is more of my struggle with perfectionism and control issues. Maybe I’m never meant to say this to others as this is something that came from an apostle. Either way, the question is: have you grown so much in your relationship with God that you can confidently instruct others to mimic your life? Another verse, which comes from Jesus’ sermon on the mount, always challenges me when I read it or think about it: Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Seriously? What’s up with all this talk about perfection? I thought we were accepted as we are, sin and all.
Both of these verses talk about love. Previously, Paul has been discussing how to relate to people of different customs and cultures in order to better develop relationships with them so that they might have the opportunity to hear God’s message. Jesus was previously talking about unconditional love. The Apostle John talked a lot about love and being perfected in love; the unconditional and sacrificial love that both Jesus and Paul talked about. How then should we be imitators? What exactly did Paul mean to imitate him and how can Jesus expect us to be perfect?
It is our response to sin. When someone sins against you, do you feel love and compassion for that person or would you rather get back at them or at least let them know how ticked off you are? In a couple chapters we are going to find “the love chapter” which is common in weddings and I look forward to what Paul has to say about love. Here he is reflecting back on what he has been talking about and it all has been about loving others above yourself. It’s about understanding where someone is and coming along side them, meeting them where they are, and letting them know they are not alone. That’s what Jesus did for us. He didn’t sit in the sky on His throne barking orders at us. Rather, He came down in the form of a man (not just floating from the sky, but was literally born) and met us where we are. He humbled Himself to a position where He didn’t need to, but wanted to because of His love for us. This is what Paul emulates of Christ and what He implores us to emulate of Him.
These bold assertions that Paul makes are similar to the boldness of Jesus. In Ephesians 5, Paul says the same to his audience there, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” Jesus didn’t only come to save us, but to show us how to live. Previously we were shown by the world how to live, but now we are called to live differently. It is why we have been given the Holy Spirit, because this type of living is only possible with the power of God.
How can you better imitate God?