The Sincerest Form of Flattery

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God
Ephesians 5:1

Today, a story in pictures.

To celebrate the first day of summer vacation, my girls and I with Grammy along to help, hopped in the van and made the trip to the newly opened Children’s Museum of Virginia.  We had toured every exhibit, played with every experiment, explored every room and we arrived at the final destination—a room set up as a stage with costumes in the corner, lighting and sound effects, and a puppet theater.

My oldest daughter first tries an octopus costume and then abandons it for a grass skirt and lei.  Then, like a superstar, she steps on the stage and begins to dance.  Grammy tells her to, “Use your hands to tell a story.”

Concluding her puppet show, my next daughter drops the prince and princess off her hands and runs to the costume corner.  Climbing into her own grass skirt, she then pops a lei over her head, steps on the stage and begins to dance just like her big sister.

Grammy and I watch the show and I snap pictures.  In the stroller sits my baby girl, tired and hungry.  She’s cuddling with her blanket now and ready for lunch and a nap.  We didn’t realize she was watching sisters one and two, but she was.  Climbing out of the stroller, she dashes over to the last grass skirt in the pile of costumes and wraps it around her little self.  I help tie it on her too-tiny waist and she then scoots away from me so that she can also step on the stage and dance.  She sways from side to side, waving her hands gently to the left, now to the right.   Hula dancing with the big girls.

Grammy tells the older sisters, “Look how she followed you even when we didn’t think she was really watching.  She wants to do what you girls do.  You always need to choose the right thing so that you set an example for her.”

They danced and hardly appreciated the wisdom in those words.  Make good decisions so those watching can follow your example.

To the Corinthian church, Paul wrote, “Therefore I urge you to imitate me” (1 Corinthians 4:16).  “Do what I do,” he says.  It seems prideful at best, almost blasphemous, surely dangerous to set himself up as a model for others. It’s context that brings clarity here.  In the same letter, Paul later writes, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1) and that’s the key really.  Paul strove to be a living, breathing, walking around, interacting with others example of Christ and because of that, others could see Christ in Him, follow Christ in Him.  He practiced what he wrote to the church in Ephesus, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1).

Yesterday, our Pastor asked the congregation, “Who has been an example of faith to you?”  Around the sanctuary, people called out names.  I thought of many who model Christ to me and then I remembered Mama Zello, one of the first life-examples to me besides my mom, a woman I remember to this day and who I consciously think of often as I read my Bible.  I remember the church service when I was about 11 years old during which the pastor of our fairly large congregation asked his momma to stand up.  She stood delicately to her feet, a “seasoned” woman of the faith whom I had seen many times.  She was so faithful to be at church even as age and sickness could have made it difficult.  She gave hugs and smiles to others generously.  On that Sunday, the Pastor asked in his microphone from his pulpit, “Mom, how many times have you read the Bible all the way through?”   And she answered—one time for every year she had lived.  In her later years, she had read the Bible through two times in a year to make up for the years before she could read as a child.

Just ponder that for a moment.  Imagine on your 80th birthday having read the Bible 80 times.

I was inspired.  Not by Biblical scholarship.  Mama Zello’s Bible reading was not head knowledge without life change.  She read the Bible over and over not to show off, not to stuff more information into her brain, not to attain some worldly success or make it into the Guinness Book of World Records.  She did it because she loved God and wanted to know Him more intimately so that her life could reflect Him.  Now, her son had risen “up and called her blessed” (Proverbs 31:28).  For me sitting in that sanctuary seat, it meant that the Bible mattered, really mattered in life, that when I stood up as a woman of 80, my greatest life accomplishment should be that I loved God’s Word that passionately and let it stir up in me a love for others.

She lived a life of example to me even when she didn’t know I was watching.  I was just a preteen girl sitting next to her parents in church on a Sunday morning and yet seeing and knowing this woman of faith impacts my life even now.

Do you live like that?  Do you imitate Christ so closely that others can imitate you—not worship you, idolize you, or adore you—-but see and follow Christ in you?  Does knowing you make others want to know more about God?

And, do you have an example like that in your life?  Someone whose life you can look at and say, “By following her, I am following a mentor who will teach me about God” or “that’s what I want to be like when I grow up.”   Certainly we must be careful not to place these examples on impossible pedestals and treat them as demigods.  Instead, we remember that in all their humanness, they have traveled with Christ a little farther than we’ve made it so far on our journey.  So, we can place our toes confidently into the impressions in the sand their feet have made and know we are simultaneously journeying to Christ-likeness.

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

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