There are several women in my life I want to imitate. From my sister-in-law Aline, I would like her quiet and reverent spirit, and the way that after 35 years of marriage she still puts effort into looking beautiful for her husband. From Barbara, I would like cheerfulness. And I want the indomitable faith-speech of Michelle, who always lifts her husband’s sights a little higher.
But can we do that? Can you or I set our sight on a virtuous person and simply choose to start imitating him or her? Can that ever work? Is it phony? Is it hypocritical if we are not feeling it yet? Is it a misguided attempt to change my heart through external emulation? To achieve sanctification from the outside in, rather than the inside out?
Those are fair questions, and I had to ask them of myself and search the Word of God before embarking on conscious imitation of Aline’s gentle manner of speech toward her husband. I would not want to attempt emulation of a person unless I were sure it was good in God’s eyes to do so. And then, if I found that it was, I would plunge in whole-heartedly.
The Bible satisfied me that it is a good thing to take note of and imitate the ways of a person who exhibits the traits God commends for us all. Here are some of the fixed biblical handles I felt secure in hanging my pursuit on:
“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (Philippians 3:17).
What the verse commends is precisely want I want to do: keep my eyes on Aline, Barbara, and Michelle, and study their ways so as to become more like them. Here is another sanction for this practice:
“I urge you, then, be imitators of me” (1 Corinthians 4:16).
The apostle Paul is not boasting; he simply knows he is obeying God’s commands for living and relationship, and is being blessed in so doing. Therefore, he is eager for us to share in that blessing, and offers himself as a living example of how it is done.
So if there is a godly person in your life, brother or sister, and if you wish you were more like that person, there is no need to continue wishing and whining. You can be like that! It is not as if you are on the wrong side of a great divide that separates the spiritual from the schmucks. God wants for all of us to have the gentleness of Aline, the cheerfulness of Barbara, and the indomitable faith of Michelle. Go for it. The grace is there.