“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Sunday’s sermon pointed out that the word “imitators” here is related to the idea of mimicry. The ability to copy closely. To imitate. To do an impression. More actively, it carries the idea of being a mime. Someone who is going through the motions, the processes to give the impression of a particular activity. The mime, the act of mimicry calls to your mind a specific activity, person, etc.
We judge the success of the mime, the success of the impression by its accuracy. How well does it represent the person or the activity being demonstrated.
I’m currently watching America’s Got Talent while staying with friends for this bridge job. One of the contestants is a particularly gifted impressionist. Greg Morton has a love of movies that goes so deep, it’s impressive. He has combined this love with his natural talent for mimicry to be able to recreate so many great movie lines and catchphrases with dead-on accuracy. It is amazing and I would encourage you to watch him.
On the other end of the spectrum, we know that there is nothing worse than a bad impression. Ones that leave us scratching our head, seeking to identify the source.
With that in mind, if we are to be imitators of Christ, that leaves us with a heavy particular gut check:
How good is your imitation of Christ?
Is it recognizable? Or is it too far removed?
How are we doing feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, caring for the poor? Or are we putting conditions on our charity, based on skin color, sexual preference, gender identity, or immigration status?
How are we doing at going the extra mile? Carrying the pack that much further? Or are we refusing to even have conversation with those we disagree with?
How are we doing crossing boundaries to speak with the woman at the well? Or are we uncomfortable venturing into other countries, other cultures, other states, other cities, or even just across the tracks?
How are we doing at showing mercy and being peacekeepers, intervening with the sometimes mob justice of the world and of the church? Or are we still the pharisees trying to through the stones?
How are we doing with empathy toward those around us? Do we weep with the people in our lives? Or are we closed off to them?
How are we doing hanging out with the outsiders? Visiting the tax collector at his house? Breaking bread with prostitutes and fishermen? Or do our social circles look very homogenized? Are they all exclusively from our church?
How are we doing at turning over the money tables in our churches and our faith? Or have we become comfortable with the coffee shops, the book and music stores, and the apparel stores in our buildings? Does reducing our faith to a theme park not bother us on some level?
How are we doing at forgiving those who hurt us? O do we just ghost them now?
How are we doing with our doubters and our deniers? Are we caring for them, are we pursuing them, and are we forgiving them to help see them return? Or are we writing them off as apostate?
That’s just a small list. And I fail miserably at all of it. Jon Jorgenson has a quote that says, “I’m worse than you think worshipping a God who is greater than you know.” And it’s true. I’m far worse than you could possibly imagine. I have the hardest time living up to the imitation that I’m called to. There are days when my imitation is unrecognizable.
But, like art, we are called to keep trying to perfect it. It will never get there this side of glory. But we keep at it.
And if you are struggling in your imitation, those are the words you need to hear.
Keep at it.