Romans 8:29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son….
I Corinthians 11:1 Imitate me [Paul], just as I also imitate Christ.
God has given us some marvelous human examples of faith, love, and grace. We often say, “I want to be like so-and-so when I grow up,” even up to old age. There is something accessible about another human being that makes it easy to look at them and learn from them.
Of course, we are supposed to be examples to one another. The youth are called to be examples in speech, love, faith and purity (I Timothy 4:12). Peter calls elders to be examples to the flock (I Peter 5:3). The author of Hebrews encourages us to remember our leaders, consider their way of life, and imitate their faith (Hebrews 13:37).
Yet behind these encouragements is the reality of the pull of the Holy Spirit. The Lord’s Spirit is at constant work in us to transform us into the image of Jesus Christ. Not into the image of a leader we respect, or someone we wish to be like. But into the image of Jesus.
God is our Trainer, and He has His reasons for allowing us to be drawn to certain people. There is a great deal that we can learn from other people. We can save time by learning from others what it would take years to learn on our own. And we can pick up godly habits and see how others have made the Christian life their own.
But Paul expresses the limits on this learning: “…just as I also imitate Christ.” We learn from others so that we become more like Christ, not more like them. We’ve likely all seen people who pick up words, speech patterns, and even facial expressions of those that they admire. It would be funny, except that it misses the point of godly imitation, which is to be more like Him, not another human.
God will likely bring different people into your life at different times. There are times when we need to see (and learn) one specific thing, then later we are to learn something else from someone else. Some may be with us, walking with us in the Lord, for years. Others may be there for a short season only.
And as no one is perfect, there will always be some kind of limit to the anointing on a comparison with someone else. God wouldn’t be leading you to imitate someone else beyond the point of their godliness. He wouldn’t even be leading you to imitate them beyond the point of what He wants you to imitate, no matter how godly they may be in other areas.
No matter how godly a human example can be, all imitation of them must be made in the context of our transformation into the image of Jesus Christ. We will appreciate people and the Lord even more as we get a right understanding of how He uses others to teach and encourage us.
Prayer: Father, may I be more open than ever to learning from others as You give them to me as an example. May I learn what You want me to, and prevent me from being distracted from You by their strengths or even their weaknesses. It’s You I want to be like.