During my childhood years, I spent a lot of time in the car with my two older sisters on long road trips. Most of the time was spent sleeping or looking at the area landscape. Reading a book became a good way to pass the time. However, with three siblings sitting in such close proximity, annoying also became an activity option. (I cannot speak for my sisters, but I will attribute my bad behavior to an underestimation of the powerful sinful nature!) One of the ways I would annoy my sisters was repeating everything they would say. I would copy their sounds. For example, one sister would say, "Michael, stop it!" and I would chime in, "Michael, stop it!" This copying would go on and on. In this case, imitation was not the highest form of flattery, but the easiest form of annoyance.
Imitation continues today. Some of it is good; a child imitates his father's kind actions and temperament. Some of it is bad; a child imitates her friend's unsavory choice of words. As Christians, however, we ponder the best kind of imitation - the imitation that flows from Christ. In the apostle Paul's first letter to the church in Corinth, he puts forth this simple yet significant sentence: "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1, ESV). Paul wanted the Corinthians to imitate him. He called for it. He desired it. This was not some annoying practice that would be avoided, Paul requested imitation.
Paul could only invite this imitation, however, as he recognized his relationship with Christ. On his own, Paul had nothing to offer the Corinthians. He was simply a man. But Christ had called him as an apostle, one set apart to be a "steward of the mysteries of God" (1 Corinthians 4:1, ESV). Paul would teach, preach, and set an example for the Christians in Corinth. His example would flow from his relationship with Jesus Christ.
This rich imitation continues today in the church. We examine our own words, actions, and behavior in light of our relationship with Christ. Sadly, we may recognize that we are not acting much like Christ. We can then ask the question: Who are we imitating? Think carefully. Are you imitating your parents, even though you said you never would? Some of us may imitate financial experts as we try to gain extra money each month. Others may be imitating their successful neighbors, hoping that one day they may reach their status. Perhaps we are not imitating anyone. We live and make decisions based on whatever feels good, whatever brings the most pleasure, whatever excites us.
During these days before the return of our Lord, we can repent of our cheap imitation and pray that the Holy Spirit moves us to the rich imitation He calls for. We are enabled to imitate our godly leaders as they imitate Christ. He frees you to imitate and live in His grace. There is nothing annoying about that!