Saturday, June 25, 2011

True Discipleship

1 Corinthians 11:1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

1 μιμηταί μου γίνεσθε καθὼς κἀγὼ Χριστοῦ.

Paul makes quite a bold statement here as he links arguments together. He uses the imperative γίνεσθε to command the Corinthians to imitate him. We need to be careful not to stop reading there, though I’m afraid that is easy to do. What I think is interesting is the phrase καθὼς κἀγὼ.

This same phrase starts off 1 Corinthians 10:33 and is translated “just as I am.” By itself, the word καθὼς carries the idea of “as” or “even as.” The word κἀγὼ is a combination of και and εγω and has the idea of “and I.” Putting these words together creates kind of an odd construct to an English reader because we don’t have anything quite like this. Unpacking it a bit might be something like, “Be imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ.” The genitive form of Χριστοῦ is what makes it “of Christ” instead of just “Christ.”

The point is that Paul is telling them to imitate him, but he is doing it in the sense of how he imitates Christ. In other words, he is not saying that he is perfect and that he is worthy of imitation because of his perfection. Rather, he is telling them to imitate the way he imitates Christ.

This is a vital distinction for us. We live in a world where we want to worship celebrities. Some young guys want to preach like Mark Driscoll. Or maybe it’s John Piper. Maybe we want to imitate the reckless sacrifice of Francis Chan. These are fine role models. However, there is a problem because they are all sinners.

Instead, we should imitate John Piper’s pursuit of knowing God. We should imitate Mark Driscoll’s focus in saving the lost within the community he has targeted. We should imitate Francis Chan’s willingness to cast everything aside for the sake of knowing Christ. But we should not imitate them as men.

And if you ever plan to be in Christian ministry you need to make this distinction clear with your people. They should not be imitating you. They should be imitating you as you follow Christ. They should imitate your pursuit of Christ. However, ultimately they need to pursue Christ.

This means that we need to give them a model to follow as well. But fortunately it is not up to us to save them. It is up to the Lord that we are trying to imitate. Let’s focus on Him and the rest will fall into place.

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