17 Brothers and sisters, become imitators of me and watch those who live this way—you can use us as models. 18 As I have told you many times and now say with deep sadness, many people live as enemies of the cross. 19 Their lives end with destruction. Their god is their stomach, and they take pride in their disgrace because their thoughts focus on earthly things. 20 Our citizenship is in heaven. We look forward to a savior that comes from there—the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform our humble bodies so that they are like his glorious body, by the power that also makes him able to subject all things to himself.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.Charles Caleb Colton, author
As an identical twin, I have lived in the shadows of mistaken identity, in which having a similar image was not always seen as flattering. I know the blessings and challenges of being compared to looking, or being, just like someone else. Growing up, my sister and I were not happy to be seen as looking or acting alike. There is a point in self-identity in which egos can and do get in the way.
So I can just imagine the community of Philippi saying to Paul, “No we are not going to imitate you.” However, Paul is not really talking about imitation of himself or any of the apostles. He was talking to those who refused to believe in the theology of the cross.
Paul was speaking to brothers and sisters who refused to recognize Christ as God incarnate. In the unsettled times of the early church, Paul was speaking to those who lived with their minds in this world. Most importantly, he was talking about disciples living humbly in Christ’s image.
As citizens of heaven, we are made in God’s image and Christ is our living proof of this identity. But it is not an ego trip. When we are living in Christ’s image, our focus is no longer on our earthly needs, or even how others will see us. We do not live because we want to look like Christ for the rest of the world. Instead, we want to live like Christ, for Christ’s sake. There is no ego trip, because through Christ we are humbly transformed.
By Barbara Carlson
For Pondering & Prayer
It is hard to live in Christ’s image. Our human egos can get in the way! But as citizens of heaven, we look forward to how God transforms us. It is through this transformation that we live faithfully in Christ’s image.
Think of a time when you felt God calling you to live in Christ’s image by helping or supporting another person without others knowing it. How do you think or speak of that time? How does living in Christ’s image challenge your human heart, body and soul?
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for your message that has come through the Apostle Paul. Thank you for transforming our hearts, minds and bodies. Thank you for loving us when we fall short. Even when we seek worldly ways, help us to know you. Truly only you can transform the world, so help us to humbly seek you in all that we do. Amen.