My life, a work in progress.
In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul strongly encourages – commands, even – the believers to follow his example in not being disorderly, working with his hands, and not being a burden to anyone. He specifically says they “ought to follow” him, Sylvanus and Timothy.
Shouldn’t Paul have been encouraging these people to follow Jesus, instead of himself or his friends?
This wasn’t the first time Paul said something like this. To the Galatians he said, “Brethren, I urge you to become like me….”(2) To the Corinthians he said, “Therefore I urge you, imitate me,”(3) and “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.”(4). To the Philippians he said, “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.”(5) And to Timothy, “Hold fast to the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me,…”(6)
I don’t believe these statements are the ramblings of a prideful superior. Rather, this is the pattern: students should follow the examples of their teachers. In all cases, those to whom he writes are his children in the faith. Most did not have the benefit of the writings of the 12 disciples that narrated Jesus’ life on earth. So Paul, as he himself followed the example of the Jesus he learned about from those disciples, gave himself as an example. This is what he taught Timothy: “let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers….”(7)
Years ago I was criticized as a parent because my son was “just like” me in many ways, and not acting or thinking independently / differently. I took this as a compliment (and so did he)! Children will imitate their parents. Just like Paul, our role as parents includes modeling Christ-like behavior for our children. As they shadow us, and grow and mature into following the one Perfect Example, we fill this most important role. This means paying careful attention to the way we walk and talk, but I believe we are entirely correct in teaching our children to follow our example, as we follow the example of Christ.
Children will also imitate others. Role models abound for our children, good and bad. It may be a sports figure, a television character, or a literary figure, or friends. This mean paying careful attention to the influences in our childrens’ lives; often limiting or eliminating exposure to bad examples.
Here’s hoping your relationship with your children will so far exceed the others in their life, and that your relationship with the Father will so transform your life, that in following you, they will be following Jesus.
(1) 2 Thesselonians
(2) Galations 4:12
(3) 1 Corinthians 4:16
(4) 1 Corinthians 11:1
(5) Philippians 3:17
(6) 2 Timothy 1:13
(7) 1 Timothy 4:12