Why Would You Follow My Example?

When Paul writes to the church in Corinth, he shares some brief but powerful words: “Therefore I urge you to imitate me” (1 Corinthians 4:6). Later in his letter, he writes, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I would say these words to anyone! It could be a bad thing for people to imitate me or to follow my example.
I find it especially difficult to say such words to my children. It’s much easier to communicate the idea, “Do as I say, not as I do.” But anyone who’s a parent knows that kids tend to do as we do. What we try to teach them is more “caught” than “taught,” meaning that the life we live is much more important than the mere words we say. Modeling, or teaching by example, affects our kids’ behavior far more than telling them what to do. If you’re a mom or a dad, how often have you watched your kids and found yourself looking into a little living mirror, for better or for worse?
There is, however, a positive side to all of this. Our children might imitate our negative behavior, but they will also follow the example of our positive behavior. We can decide what we want most to instill in our children, and we can try our best to consciously live out those values. We can pay attention to our own habits when we realize that our kids are imitating us. And, with God’s power, we can work toward change, based on our awareness of those little eyes and ears.
A critical element to the writings of Paul, when he says to imitate him or follow his example, is the phrase, “as I follow the example of Christ.” Even though there are things about me that I don’t want my children (or anyone else for that matter) to imitate, I do want my kids (and others) to follow my example insofar as I’m living a Christlike life. Because then people are ultimately following God and not me, and even the things they imitate in me reflect a life lived in obedience to Christ. So, I guess it’s okay for people to follow me, if I’m on the right road and going the right way. If, and only if, I’m living and loving like Jesus, then please imitate me.
Troy Burns