I recently took a teen from my discipleship group on a tour of my alma mater. We listened to a professor speak on the purpose of attending college. He said, “Your professors willinfluence and shape you, so you need to ask yourself, Are my professors people I want to be like?”
It’s true; we often become like the people we’re around. Even if we don’t know them personally, we’ll often model ourselves after people we admire. Whether we copy fashion choices after a Hollywood starlet or adopt a famous preacher’s teaching style or take on the beliefs and attitudes of our parents, we mimic and imitate others.
The question is, who are we mimicking? And are those the people we ought to mimic?
The apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Philippian church, encouraging them in their faith. They were the first church he planted in Europe, and they played an active role in his ministry, even supporting him financially when other churches would not.
Compared to other churches, the church at Philippi was healthy. Even so, Paul did not want them to give up their progress. He wanted them to push forward and continue to grow and mature in their faith. And he exhorts them to do this by imitation.
One of the themes throughout the letter is Paul’s call for the church to imitate the godly: “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (Phil. 3:17). He held up Timothy, as well as Epaphroditus (who was delivering the letter), as models worthy of imitation:
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too maybe cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy’s proven worthy, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. (Phil. 2:19–22)
Of Epaphroditus he says, “So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men” (Phil. 2:29). Epaphroditus is worthy of honor, as are men like him.
Paul assumes we will mimic and imitate others...
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