“Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)
One of the hardest parts of understanding the letters to the Corinthians is that they seem to have a strange style where Paul writes something, and then seems to contradict what he writes. He contradicts gently, but you can still see the disconnect. The more I read the letters, and the more I read what others say about the letters, my belief is that reading these letters is like listening to one side of a phone conversation where the person you’re listening to will sometimes repeat what the other guy said. Sometimes, we can guess what was said by the way Paul responds. I believe that Paul’s words here were a response to what the Corinthians had written. My guess is that it was something like, “Some people follow those other teachers (see 1 Corinthians 1) but we imitate you, Paul.” Paul reminded them that if they were imitating him, they were also imitating Christ because that’s how Paul tried to live. He then went a step farther and reminded them that ultimately, they were to follow Christ.
There’s a saying that reminds me that how I live, act, and think is important: “you may be the only Bible some people will ever read.” Bible reading isn’t popular in our culture, even among those who claim the name of Christ in some way. The truth is, that when we claim to be Christians, people watch us. They may not read the Bible, but they’ll read us to see if we’re imitating Christ. To be sure, sometimes their understanding of Jesus is wrong, but they can see hypocrisy and double-minded thinking. We like to say something like, “Don’t look at me, look at Jesus.” It doesn’t matter. They’ll still be looking at us. While we can object all we want, we’ll never escape their observation. We need to embrace that responsibility and live in a way that imitates Jesus, while at the same time finding ways to teach them how they can find and follow Jesus for themselves, rather than following us.
Lord, may I imitate You so well that when people imitate me, it will be as if they’re imitating You. Let me show Your love, grace, and forgiveness to others and then teach them how to find and follow You instead of following people like me.