Why we’re called to imitate, not mimic Christ
Written by Josiah Piett
Have you ever thought to yourself, Is this it? Is there more to life than what I am currently experiencing? Maybe you pursued the career, relationship, hobby or lifestyle you have always desired and you got exactly what you worked so hard to get. Yet, in the corner of your mind there is a thought that you’re scared to bring to the surface. Is this it?
Or maybe you have been following Jesus for a while now, trying your hardest to serve Him with everything you are and everything you have. Yet, in the corner of your mind, there is this thought that you are scared to bring to the surface. Is this it? You are not alone.
Paul the Apostle wrote a letter to the church in Corinth, which was in the middle of spiritual growing pains. This church was young, passionate, and had gone full tilt into seeking the presence of God in their gatherings and witnessing to God in their community.
Transformation had begun in a way many could not imagine. Yet Paul, knowing the intimate details of the community, wrote a plea to the church: There is more. Don’t settle. What you have experienced is only the tip of the iceberg of what God desires to do in and through you for His glory.
How did Paul lay the path forward for this church? Did he tell them to meet more often, or for longer periods of time? Did he tell them to give more of their time, treasure, and talents to the church? No. Instead, Paul said, “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
What does it mean to be imitators of Christ? Perhaps our response to this question reveals insights into why some of us are asking the question, Is this it?
Imitation requires proximity. Imitation requires dialogue. Imitation requires relationship.
Paul’s statement revealed the heart of the issue this church was facing. There was a gap between what people said they believed and their actions. This gap revealed a heart issue that could only be dealt with in Christ. In the beginning of his letter, Paul was upset because many in the church identified themselves by the human teachers they followed as opposed to Christ.
Many of us today face a similar gap between what we say we believe and how we act. This gap is a counterfeit of imitation: mimicry.
Imitating and mimicking both look similar on the outside but they are different on the inside. In the Gospels, Jesus often entered spaces where people were outwardly doing the right things or asking the right questions. Yet something shifted when Jesus said or did something. Jesus’s words or deeds revealed the posture of the heart before Him.
Many of these people were following the paths shown them by those they trusted. They were told what to do and they were obedient. And yet, Jesus demonstrated repeatedly throughout his ministry that we can do all the right things and still miss out on relationship with Him.
The church of Corinth was saying all the right things and doing most of them well, yet Paul knew that there was a disconnect with God in their hearts. Until this church was willing to deal with their heart issues, they would be limited in what they would experience in Christ.
We are designed to imitate Christ, not mimic Him. I think some of us feel dissatisfied with our lives because we seek to be something we were never designed to be. I don’t believe we are the heroes of our story nor are we the passive victim waiting to be rescued. Christ invites us into a dynamic relationship with Him which transforms us from the inside out. We walk the line of being unworthy and yet being chosen to be sons and daughters. What might this imitation of Christ look like for us in this hour we’re living in?
Christ invites us to abide in Him. This abiding has been explored throughout church history. In practice, it can be helpful to understand abiding through the language of spiritual disciplines. Put simply, these are patterns of behaviours that Christ modeled and encouraged His followers to walk in.
Some examples include fasting, silence and solitude, giving, meditating on scriptures, praying, serving others, and simple living. Please don’t look at this a list as exhaustive or as a duty. Spiritual disciplines are an opportunity where Christ invites us to get to know Him, ourselves, and others. Through this proximity to Christ, we begin to discover and rediscover what imitation of Him looks like.
Dialogue between ourselves and God is essential for all followers of Jesus. Here, our relationship is formed, informed, reformed, and transformed. This dialogue is with Christ, but it’s also with others. We were never designed to walk this life alone; we are designed to walk with Christ and with a family of followers of Jesus. Paul wasn’t telling an individual to imitate Christ; he was speaking to a community of believers. Every disciple of Jesus is called into a family.
Our imitation of Christ flows out of our intimacy with Him. As our relationship with Christ continues to grow, so will our ability to imitate Him. Paul’s direction to imitation Christ reminds us that we are called to be in a relationship with Christ and others.
Imitating Christ is a journey, not a destination. Whether we are beginning this journey or have been on it for decades, we all have opportunity to know, grow, and show Christ in us, the hope of glory.
To conclude, I’ll leave you with these questions.
- What does abiding in Christ look like for you today? If someone were to walk alongside you for a week and followed your footsteps, what would they see and say?
- What does your dialogue with Christ look like today? Are there conversations God wants you to have with Him or others that you’ve been avoiding?
- What does your relationship with Christ look like today? How has your intimacy with Christ grown in the last couple of months? How has He shown His love to you and how have you shown it to others?
Josiah Piett has the privilege of being a child of God, husband to Kara-Lee, and a house church pastor. He also suffers from severe lifelong health issues. These experiences have shaped him into having a passion for seeing people discover who they are in Christ and their role to play in the Father’s Kingdom. To learn more about Josiah’s work, check out @theknjcast on Instagram.