“Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.”
I have read this verse multiple times in my life, but for whatever reason God wanted me to really see it this time because it just jumped out at me recently when it appeared in a devotion. It actually almost made me sick to my stomach when the meaning sank in and a thought came to my mind:
“Would I ever tell someone to follow my example as a follower of Christ?”
Well, the answer quickly followed and was a resounding “No way!” I don’t want that kind of responsibility and, probably more accurately, I don’t want that kind of accountability. Yet, here is Paul telling the church at Philippi to do just that. So, does Paul just think he is “all that and a bag of chips” to the point that he thinks all Christians should be as good as he is at being Christ like?
Actually what Paul was saying was quite the opposite as we can read in 1 Timothy 1:15-16:
“15) Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16) But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.”
Paul’s point was not to follow him because he was a great a being like Christ, his point was for them to follow his example of being a sinner and yet shown mercy by Jesus despite all his sin. In other words, you don’t have to be perfect and sinless instead, you can be just like Paul, full of sin but given mercy and salvation through Christ.
This verse is a challenge to me and I hope to you as well. Ask yourself, “What example am I setting for others?”
Am I setting an unrealistic example by pretending to be perfect on the outside and not being vulnerable enough to let people see all the times I fall?
I think God wants us to set an example that shows the reality of being a follower of Christ. Trying to following Jesus’ perfect example and always falling short but accepting the grace, patience, forgiveness and, ultimately, salvation despite all my sin and shortfalls.
Here is an even more challenging question: “Would I ever be willing to tell others to follow my example?”
That is scary for me and it is what caused me to feel sick to my stomach. It is scary to think of someone watching how I react to this life because I don’t always handle things the way God would like me to and I don’t want others to see that example. However, that is life as a sinner in a sinful world and new believers or, those that haven’t made the step of accepting God’s salvation yet, need to know that it is ok to mess up. We all do it and God is always right there ready to forgive and love us anyway.
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