Dare I Ask Others to Follow My Example?
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)
Paul knew he followed Jesus, so he did not hesitate to tell the Corinthian Christians to imitate his walk with the Lord. He knew the Corinthian Christians needed an example, and he was willing to hold himself up to public scrutiny and be that example.
Paul simply did what he told his young associate, Timothy, to do: “Be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)
Sadly, few today are willing to say what Paul said! Instead, because of compromise and ungodliness, we are quick to say, “Don’t look at me, look at Jesus.” While it is true, we must all ultimately look to Christ as our example. Every one of us should be an example of those who look to the Lord.
In this specific context, it is a little difficult to know if Paul’s words here related to that which comes before or after. Does Paul refer back to 1 Corinthians 10 and therefore mean, “Follow my example as I seek to bless others instead of pleasing myself” or does Paul refer to what is to follow in 1 Corinthians 11 and therefore mean, “Follow my example as I respect God’s order and authority in the church”? Though he most likely connects it with what went before in 1 Corinthians 10, Paul was a good example in both cases.
Paul knew he was an example, and a good example at that. He also knew that it was not “Paul” who was a worthy example, but “Paul the imitator of Jesus” who was the example.
Here is the key to Paul’s seemingly proudful statement that others should “follow” him. In reality, Paul knew that he was a sinner like the rest of us. He would write in his letter to the Romans, “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:18-19)
In so saying, he set a limit and direction on the way we imitate others. He was saying, “Follow me as much as you see me following Jesus.”
It is a lofty goal and one filled with humility rather than hubris. Follow me … imitate me, but only as you see me imitating the Savior.
I pray this for my life and the lives of those I love. I pray that I may imitate Paul and, in turn, invite others to “follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.”
Ed Jones pastors Fellowship at the Ranch Church at Robson Ranch. This nondenominational church meets at the Robson Clubhouse on Sunday mornings at 10:30 a.m. For information, visit Fellowship’s website www.fellowshipattheranchchurch.com.