Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Great Imitations

"Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ."

That's quite a statement, Paul. You do know that it's pretty much impossible to fully imitate Christ, right? And why can't I just imitate Christ and skip the middle man? Didn't Jesus invite me to follow Him, and Him alone? And didn't you say that you are merely a servant, even calling yourself nothing compared to Jesus? Yet this idea of imitation is what Paul tells us over and over and over again.

I have this image of spirituality: it's like a hike. Hiking has the connotations of "journey," "progress," "discipline," "pacing," and even "painful." I remember going on an especially brutal hiking trip with two of my best friends, Brian and Scott, in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. We were ascending a small mountain, but had misread our maps. What was originally intended to be around a 10-mile hike turned into nearly 17 miles through areas above the snow line. We ran out of food, almost ran out of water, and barely made it back to our car before dark (we had no flashlights, having not intended to be out that long). My friends were trucking along, but I was struggling by the end. My pace had slowed significantly, and I was very conscious of every weary step.

The only way I made it down safely were my two friends. One walked in front of me, the other behind me, keeping a slow-yet-steady pace. They paced with me, allowing me to go slower, yet also leading me and keeping me moving in the right direction. I spent much of those final miles staring at the shoes of the friend in front of me, literally walking in their footsteps. It wasn't like they had to carry me off the mountain, but I couldn't have finished the journey without the camaraderie of solid friends who would journey with me in my weakness.

So when Paul says to "follow me as I'm following Christ," I picture myself as following in Paul's footsteps as we both travel alongside and towards Jesus. We're following Jesus together. Thus, when I'm inviting students to imitate me, I'm setting a steady pace towards being more like Christ, knowing that I'm not perfect in this journey, but that we need to keep moving towards Jesus.

Imitate me. Follow me. I'm trying to follow Jesus and I'd like you to do that with me.

Maybe that's what discipleship is all about.

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