Imitation is sincerest form of flattery

Published 5:41 pm Monday, July 16, 2012

By KEN LETSON / Guest Columnist

There’s an interesting passage in the New Testament that always gets my attention, first for its audacity and then for its truth.

It came from the apostle Paul, writing to his new disciples in the church at Corinth. His words to those new Christ-followers: “Imitate me.”

Actually, such a statement was not out of the ordinary at all from Paul.

In those early days in the life of the church, he found himself needing to instruct those new Christians who had either come from a background steeped in religious legalism, or from pantheistic paganism that had no moral restraints.

Rather than just offer them unfamiliar instruction to tell them how to live, he showed them.

He didn’t just say “Do as I say,” but “Do as I do.”

On a number of occasions Paul wrote to those early Christians — in Corinth, in Thessalonica, and in Philippi — to follow his lead. Ultimately, he summed up his point in 1 Corinthians 11:1 when he wrote: “Be imitators of me, as I also am of Christ.”

I have to admit, I’m pretty uncomfortable ever asking anyone to “be like me.” I can hardly imagine instructing another Christian to do what I do, or say what I say. It’s more than just some over-spiritualized sense of humility. I’ve lived with myself long enough that I know my example is rarely worth following.

But there is a great truth for us about setting an example and having an influence on our world, by modeling the behavior and character and values that reflect our faith in Christ.

Whether it be in parenting, where we’re always being watched and regularly imitated, or in other relationships of influence, it’s so very important that the model we set comes from the model we follow, which is Jesus.

It’s been said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” It’s also the sincerest form of genuine influence. That was Paul’s method — “Follow me, as I follow Christ” — and that’s what we say to our children and youth, and to those young in the faith who are looking for worthy Christian models to pattern their lives after.

May our lives truly reflect Jesus in all that we do, and may we live in such a way that we can boldly, and yet humbly, say “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ.”


The Rev. Ken Letson is senior pastor of The Church at Shelby Crossings in Calera. You can reach him at