Monday, April 6, 2009

The Imitation Of Christ

I read a comment by an annoy-ny-mouse on Malcolm's blog relating to his post entitled "Money, Sex and Power" and the mouse said something (which I have highlighted in bold in the excerpt below) which has been bandied about in Christian-speak for the longest time, so much so that it is accepted as bible truth without question:

"The difference between a chef and a religious institution / faith is that the restaurant is a business...not a mere calling.

Does a church want to be a business or a calling?

How much is enough? How much is too much?

And...what ever happen to the Imitation of Christ?
Do we want to imitate Christ in his poverty so that more can be made rich? And rich not necessarilty in the material sense?
"

I was also one of those who accepted that we are supposed to imitate Christ because I have heard Christians say so and preachers preach so. However, I have my doubts today after I did a search of the scriptures for "imitate" and "imitator".

There is not a single verse, yes, NOT EVEN ONE VERSE in the bible that says we are to imitate Christ. Are you in shock now? I was, and I re-confirmed the search results by doing searches using a few translations - KJV, NKJV, NASB, YLT, NIV, ESV.

The apostle Paul did not tell us to imitate Christ but he did tell us, a few times, to imitate him!

I urge you, then, be imitators of me. (1 Cor 4:16)

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. (1 Cor 11:1)

For you yourselves knowE)"> how you ought to imitate us, becauseF)"> we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, butG)"> with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It wasH)"> not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. (2 Thess 3:7-9)

Paul also called us to imitate God, but that is still not the same as imitating Christ - Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. (Eph 5:1)

Many Christians have been using this line of argument for the longest time, especially against fellow Christians who believe in the goodness of Daddy God to prosper his children richly both materially and spiritually eg. like what the mouse said in his comment that we have to imitate Christ and become poor to enrich others whether materially or otherwise. I have heard a preacher say that we have to imitate Christ's riches-to-rags example.

This coming Good Friday, in the Philippines, there will be people who will be literally "imitating Christ"; they will be enacting the passion of Christ. I just wonder whether those who loudly proclaim that we have to imitate Christ truly believe in it. I wonder if annoy-ny-mouse will be hanging on a cross on Mount Faber this Friday ... I wonder if annoy-ny-mouse is now a poor church mouse because he has imitated Christ whom Paul described in Gal 3:13 as having become poor in order that others might become rich ... well, probably not as poor as he could be since he still has his computer and broadband service.

We have to seriously do a re-think about this imitating Christ theology. Paul actually boldly told us to imitate him. In what way? I have to meditate on this some more, and talk to you again in another post.

12 comments:

Thy Word Is Truth said...

Hi Stanley,

It is not true for you to assert and state that "There is not a single verse, yes, NOT EVEN ONE VERSE in the bible that says we are to imitate Christ. Are you in shock now? I was, and I re-confirmed the search results by doing searches using a few translations - KJV, NKJV, NASB, YLT, NIV, ESV."


There are many, many verses, just to state a few well known ones:

1Pe 2:21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

Mat 10:38 And whoever does not TAKE HIS CROSS and FOLLOW ME is not worthy of me.

Mar 8:34 And calling the crowd to him with HIS DISCIPLES, he said to them, "If anyone would COME AFTER ME, let him DENY himself and take up HIS CROSS and FOLLOW ME.

Luk 9:23-24 And he said to all, "If anyone would COME AFTER ME, let him DENY himself and take up HIS CROSS DAILY and FOLLOW ME.
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life FOR MY SAKE will save it.

Luk 14:26-27 "If anyone COMES TO ME and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not BEAR HIS OWN CROSS and COME AFTER ME cannot be my DISCIPLE.

Shalom

BL said...

I think the commentator whom you call mouse has some valid points..and perhaps you are hitting a little below the belt by calling him names, and challenging him to hang on a tree...jeering...
perhaps a little more reflection could have been made of his points before you attack ad hominem. A little Christian charity? He did not even post his comments on your blog.

I don't see why his comments on being imitator of Christ should be taken by you so literally. Thy Word is Truth gets it.

The truth is: the path towards eternal life, by following Jesus is not one of riches or health. Indeed it is fraught with uncertainty, and pain, and suffering. And yet, those who believe in him is promised riches and rewards beyond this world.

And that I think is "mouse's" point. Nobody needs to be deliberately poor, but the pursuit of riches, and justifying it by saying God wants us all to be blessed with riches is perhaps the other extreme that requires some balance.

Stanley Wong said...

Geri posted the following comments on the same article which I also published on facebook:
-----------------------------------
Ok this is my view-

Bro, we don't have to imitate Christ you know why? Paul made it so clear by that statement you put up, and I am going to explain it in one verse - not I who live, but Christ who lives in me. ^.^

We don't imitate Jesus because Jesus lives in us today! We already have the mind of Christ and the Holy Spirit, the helper He has sent us, to teach us all things. =)... Read More

What is needful or us to do is to walk out that precious gift we have in our daily lives. Choosing to align our thoughts with His Word, to discern not based on our emotions but with the Spirit. =)

As He is in this world so are we. =) We don't imitate anymore because He is in us and we are in Him! =D
----------------------------------

Stanley Wong said...

Hi BL,

The term "annoy-ny-mouse" was actually coined by Malcolm to reflect his (and my) annoyance at the commentator(s) who deliberately and consistently choose to make their comments anonymously. He/She/It/They do not even have the decency to use a pseudonym to address himself/herself/itself/themselves.

Since he/she/it/they refuse to name himself/herself/itself/themselves, I think it is fair for us to call him/her/it/them any names we deem fit.

BL, you said T.W.I.Truth gets it but frankly I don't. Do you? Would you care to explain the meaning of "let him DENY himself and take up HIS CROSS and FOLLOW ME." ?

Daughter Of Sarah said...

Hmm this is my sharing - i feel that when Jesus spoke it was still in the OT context when He reminded people we had to take on His salvation and follow Him, not insisting we can DIY our salvation via Law. Remember He had not died yet so He could not share certain things.

Today when we apply this to our lives from a New covenant perspective, we dun literally hew a cross out of a tree. And neither is He asking to carry our burdens since He did also say my yoke is easy and my burden is light. We no longer carry our crosses, He carried them for us to Calvary. His Cross is light - it is one of a finished work! =D He wants us to stop carrying our heavy hearts and condemnation around, and to take on His Cross and follow in His steps because He has overcome the devil for us already. So deny our need to work out salvation, to overcome the devil by our own imperfect means or justification. Our justification is Jesus, not self.

When we are told to deny ourselves - it is to remind us that it is no longer us who lives but Christ who lives in us. We make decisions no longer based on how we feel, but based on walking out our lives established on the grace He has placed in us. We no longer battle the principalities and powers based on our own might and strength (which stems from pride i feel), but by His Spirit (which stems from obedience.

Taking up our cross and following Him to me, means daring to make decisions not based on how we feel, but making our decisions based on His leading.

We don't know how God leads each one but as a Missionary once told me - not everyone is called to the Missionary field, and we should not feel condemned if we don't. Each of us has a place in the Kingdom, and a different blessing and a different call and a different gift. We should not judge people because we do not know God's leading and will for them. They too have their personal walk. What is important for us is to walk our walk well, to edify those who are down, pray for those we feel need to change and to always turn our eyes upon Jesus.

Carrying the Cross and denying self is not about us taking on our burdens and weakness head on with our own abilities and then being poor too deny self. Denying self is being Christ- conscious not self-consciouss.

I know wealthy people who are not self-centred, but who give lavishly for the overflow of blessings in their lives. I know poor people who are self-centred because they don't trust God will provide if they give, so they hold on to money instead of holding on to the promises of provision by Jesus. By that same matter, I know wealthy people who love money so much, they lose it later because they got greedy on the share market. And poor people who give out of the abundance of God's grace and never worry for lack because He is faithful.

We should not judge the bank account and we should not judge period because God sees man differently than the way we see man. We see the outward appearances and the things in the natural. God sees the heart.

That is why I notice some people who are flled with the grace of God are so blessed financially coz they dun hold on to the money like it is precious to them - They give it away all the time, blessing others and God blesses them with the good things. Who are we to be jealous of them? A friend of mine comes from an incredibly blessed family - financially and in all areas... but they are also an incredible blessing to other people. And God blesses such people because I am sure He knows where their heart and focus is.

Our own jealousy amd smallness of heart, our own self-righteous and judegemental personalities, our own thinking we know God's thoughts about so and so and this person that person... these areas of our human-ness that we have not died to in Christ are the things that really stumble our walk with Him.

Just mew view. Agree or not never mind. I also not out to argue. Shalom =D

Daughter Of Sarah said...

Just to add - we are worthy of Him because He made us worthy on the Cross.

We can earn as many brownie points, do a lot of good deeds, obey the ten commandmnt and we can still not buy or earn that worthiness.

Jesus was basically scolding the Jews and making His point that unless they take up His salvation, they can never be worthy of Him. He is not asking us to use this passage to judge people unworthy.

BTW, I checked the Lexicon... the word Cross here in Greek implies:

stauros stow-ros': a stake or post (as set upright), i.e. (specially), a pole or cross; figuratively, exposure to death, i.e. self-denial; by implication, the atonement of Christ -- cross.

So even the Lexicon implies that it is referring to the atonement of Christ where we die to self so that Christ lives in us.

It is not saying imitating Christ, but it means accepting that salvation He has offered.

We need to be careful how we interpret the Word.

Again, if you disagree- SHALOM. Not here to argue but to share.

Daughter Of Sarah said...

Another thought to add-

Jesus is not contradicting the Scripture's constant reminder for us to honour our parents by saying Luke 14:26-27. I dunno what translation you used but the same bit is referred to in Matthew10:37 and it says,

"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me."

He means our love, relationship and obedience for Him is above all other human relationship
and love we share with others. And that we should be prepared that by choosing Christ, sometimes we will meet with family oppositions. But if we bow to these family oppositions and choose to not become Christians, we will not be able to be worthy - as only Christ alone can make us worthy.

We should honour Him above our parents, but it doesn't mean we should disrespect them outright lah. I say this becoz I am aware some Christians use this verse out of context to justify their treatment of their parents who are not Christians. We need to not take it out of context.

The Geneva Study Bible explains this verse in this manner:

Without exception, nothing is to be preferred before our duty to God.

Another commentary (Matthew- Henry's Concise commentary) explains:

The strongest bonds of love and duty, have often been broken through from enmity against Christ.

Sufferings from friends and relations are very grievous; nothing cuts more. It appears plainly, that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution; and we must expect to enter into the kingdom of God through many tribulations. With these predictions of trouble, are counsels and comforts for a time of trial.

Daughter Of Sarah said...

To be honest, I've honestly been trying to see how the verses quoted are talking about imitating Christ. At first it seems so, but when one delves deeper and not just wade on the shallow end, they are not talking about imitating Christ. They, IMHO and I dun wan to argue so this is my POV shalom, are talking about accepting Christ as the only way to redeem ourselves, to make ourselves worthy of His saving grace, about abiding in Him and that even in the face of trials and oppositions to remain in Him.

That without Him we are not worthy, but when we are in Him we are worthy.

If we don't make the personal decision to receive Him, we cannot be worthy of Him.

The whole speech reaches out to the unsaved and not the saved, though it reminds the saved that certain scenarios might come up (such as family opposition and strife due to diff personal views on religion, god, etc) when we decide to follow Him.

Again, my view. If you interpret otherwise, it your walk and journey. We all receive revelations at diff times. Some sooner. Some later.

But let's not judge each other. Constructive sharing and not destructive tearing down?

If only the guys here can calm down a bit when they share? =D

I know we all share the same passion and zeal for His Word. Praise God for that... but let's not be too eager to get emotional- this goes out to everyone? Including me? =)

Thy Word Is Truth said...

Hi Stanley,
You said it here and elsewhere asking: "Would you care to explain the meaning of "let him DENY himself and take up HIS CROSS and FOLLOW ME." ?

Let me borrow the words of an unknown saint to explain what Jesus meant when He asked His disciples to follow His example by denying themselves:

"Suppose you have been neglected or unforgiven. You sting with the hurt of the insult from such an oversight, but your heart is happy because you have been counted worthy to suffer for Christ. That is what dying to self is all about. When your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, and your opinions ridiculed, and yet you refuse to let anger rise in your heart or try to defend yourself, you are practicing dying to self. When you lovingly and patiently stand face to face with folly and spiritual insensitivity, and endure it as Jesus did, you have died to self. When you are content with any food, money, clothing, climate, society, solitude, or interruption by the will of God, you have died to self. When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, record your own good works, or desire commendation from others, you are dying to self. When you can honestly rejoice with a brother who has prospered and had his needs met, and never feel any envy though your needs are greater and still unmet, you have practiced dying to self. When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself, and humbly admit he's right with no resentment or rebellion in your heart, you have died to self. Are you dead yet?"

What did Jesus meant when He said we are to take up OUR cross and FOLLOW Him? Taking up the cross is the the willingness to suffer reproach. Jesus said, as we are His disciples, we must be prepared hearts and minds with the willingness to endure persecution, rejection, reproach, shame, suffering, and even martyrdom for the sake of Christ.


Shalom

Jeffrey said...

Interestingly,

Paul mentioned nothing about denying self and taking up the cross.But he did identified himself as being crucified and resurrected with Christ.

That's what I think Geri was saying.Gal 2:20 That's new covenant.

It's no longer about self or denying self.Self has been crucified.No longer I but Christ Who lives in and through me.

IN HIM we live and move and have our being.

Jesus in His 3 years of ministry,move around alot.He had no home of his own but neither was He a beggar.He was able to feed the multitudes.

The concept of "Riches to Rags" doesn't work.Try building a church on this philosopy.

maic123 said...

Being a disciple during Jesus time actually means you want to follow the master and be like the master, therefore imitating Christ. You don't need the bible to specifically tell you so as this was what discipleship means during that time.

http://www.followtherabbi.com/Brix?pageID=2753

Daughter Of Sarah said...

And the point is they were following Christ before He died, before the New Covenant was established. Even then they had to get circumcised - Jesus was definitely circumcised. Shouldn't you then?

Jesus lived like a jew, talked like a jew and worshipped like a jew... says the website whose link u posted.

Then, why don't you become a jew? oh wait we couldn't even become jews or christians coz well we're filthy gentiles.

The fact is certain traditions and practices have passed away in the face of the new convenant. Just read Acts and the various Epistles.

We need to discern between the OT and NT when we read n interpret Scriptures. It is very important.

But then again, you have your personal convictions so feel free to explore your faith and walk with Him in your own way. Free Will. =) I hope it takes you closer and closer to Him just as the gospel of Grace has brought our blogging fellowship closer and closer to Christ.

Shalom!