I’m going to start with a little quiz today. How would you fill in the blank? “I want to be like ___________.” If you are from my generation, or close to it, the answer is easy. If you are reading this and trying to figure out how there can be just one answer to this, you’re probably a lot younger than me. (I’ll explain the answer after the prayer.) That being said, there are a lot of people that all of us can think of throughout our lives who have made an impact on us. We have admired them. We have sought to follow their example. And, if the scary truth be told, there are people looking to us as examples of faith.
That’s scary because as I look at my life, I am, to quote a very good friend, the worst Christian I know. Oh, I may look good on the outside, but I know who I am on the inside. Jesus talked a lot about the right attitude for faith and how our actions ultimately reflect what’s inside of us. I know the thoughts and attitudes I have and I realize how far I have to go in this Christian life. Fortunately, God shows grace. One of the people I want to be like is Paul. When giving a spirited defense of the gospel he proclaimed his willingness to be an example of the faith with a little self-deprecating humor thrown in. “Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?’ Paul replied, ‘Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.’” (Acts 26:28-29)
Paul had been arrested. Because of Jewish plots against his life, he appealed to Caesar. The problem for the Roman authorities was that they had to let Caesar know Paul’s alleged misdeeds so they could write a charge against Paul. So, King Agrippa came to hear him and Paul defended his situation so vigorously that one of the other officials accused Paul of being crazy. Paul addressed the King by pointing out that the king knew all that was going on leading to the interchange in the verses quoted above. It is, in my opinion, one of the defining moments of the early church. Paul, standing before all the political leaders, shackled because of alleged crimes boldly declaring, “I want you to be like me!” As he said this, perhaps he gestured and the weight of the chains suddenly reminded him of the one problem of that statement and I can imagine a little chuckle as he held up his shackled arms saying, “Well…except for these chains.”
Our call as followers of Christ is to be the example that others could follow and to share the good news of Jesus. That’s hard for me to have the confidence to do because, as I said, I am the worst Christian I know. It is why I depend so much on the grace of God to get through each day. Being an example of following Christ doesn’t mean that we put on our “Sunday clothes” in front of other people; it means being real in each and every moment. If you are with me, you will see my flaws. You will see me holding my speech sometimes, but you may hear me explode in anger. When people look at me as an example, they are not looking for perfection, I hope. I will sadly disappoint them if they are. My hope and prayer is that they will see how I react when I’m wrong, and how much God’s grace works in me anyway.
Lord God, I am in imperfect follower. Change me through Your grace so that I can be an example of Your love and grace to all that I meet. May my actions reveal Your grace in my life, and my words reveal Your truth.
Now: the answer….I want to be like MIKE! It comes from an old Gatorade commercial.