November 7, 2010 • By Ed Wrather
Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. - 1 Corinthians 11:1 NKJV.
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. - Romans 8:29 NKJV.
Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” - Luke 9:23 NKJV.
In Des Peres, Missouri, an uninvited guest attempted to attend the St. Paul's Lutheran Church. Can you imagine the nerve of someone showing up uninvited at a church on a Sunday morning? Who was this uninvited person? It was Jesus, actually it was Neal Thompson wearing attire as most would imagine Jesus to be wearing. However, there was a glitch in the plan as an alert deacon spotted Thompson, stopping him short of his goal of entering the church sanctuary. Thompson was a determined Jesus imitator, and church members called the police, which convinced him to leave. Reportedly, Thompson who goes to a different church every Sunday dressed like Jesus, has stayed in character by forgiving the church.
In a previous pastorate, we actually did have a man show up dressed like Jesus, who said a few words, and then left. He had been invited to do so by a member of our church, unknown to me, until a few minutes before the man arrived. I think that it made for an unremarkable service being turned into a very memorable one. I can also understand, when in some large churches; with intricate services being planned, that such an interruption would be unwelcome.
Whatever we may feel about someone dressing up like Jesus, there is a sense in which all Christians are called to imitate how Jesus would act. The apostle Paul says that we should imitate him as he strives to imitate Christ. In Romans 8:29, we are told that we are predestined to be “conformed” to the image of Christ, the Son of God. Being conformed to His image would I think, include imitating the actions, and the behaviors of Christ Jesus.
Jesus is not physically walking upon this earth today, but His followers are. Those who believe in Jesus are His hands, arms, feet, legs, and eyes upon this Earth today. Every Christian is called to represent Jesus to those around them. Every Christian is called to act like Jesus would act. That does not mean, necessarily, that we grow a beard, wear our hair long, dress up in a robe, and sandals. It does mean that we demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit as we live our daily lives. In Galatians 5:22-23a we are told, “...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” These are the characteristics that Jesus demonstrated, lived out before those He encountered as He walked upon this Earth.
Every time you interact with another person in any way you are on a stage, and you are being observed. Would the person observing you conclude that you are imitating the apostle Paul as he imitated Jesus? Would the person observing you conclude that you are being more and more conformed to the image of Jesus? Would the person observing you conclude that you have taken up your cross, denied yourself, and are following Jesus? Would the person observing you think of you in any way as being like Jesus to them?