August 28, 2016 Text: Hebrews 13:1-8
Dear Friends in Christ,
We are imitators and followers. In my lifetime one area I have seen this is with tattoos. When I was younger the only tattoos I ever saw were on older men. “I love mom” or a heart with their wife’s name. When I watch “Hardwood Classics” on the NBA Network from even the early 90’s none of the players had tattoos. That changed in the mid 1990’s with Alan Iverson. Tattoos are now prevalent on some high school players and throughout the NBA. In the last 10-15 years it has reached the general population. Even many women have them. Being a sociologist at heart I expect this “imitation” to die down in my lifetime.
I am not making judgments on tattoos just showing how we tend to “imitate” what is prevalent in our society. People can imitate that which is good or they can imitate that which is bad.
The Apostle Paul often talked about imitation in his letters. He once asked people to imitate him but only insofar as he imitated Christ. In our text for today the writers of Hebrews urges imitation – imitating the faith of their leaders. We have all tried our own John Wayne, Jack Nicholson, or Clark Gable. But when it comes to the Christian faith of those around us, especially our leaders . . .
“HOW IS YOUR IMITATION?”
The leaders of the Hebrew Christians the writer had in mind were the faithful Pastors and shepherds of the past. It seems that these had all died after a life of faithfully teaching and preaching the Word of God. They had been faithful to the Old Testament revelation and the New Testament revelation given in Christ Jesus.
We too have been blessed with faithful Pastors and leaders of the past and leaders in the present who teach and preach the Word of God in its purity. They brought us to a knowledge of sin through the preaching of God’s Law. They were instruments in allowing His Gospel to do its work in our hearts, bringing us to faith. By remaining faithful to that Word of God we imitate the faith and bear witness to the world what that faith means in our daily lives.
The text lists some of those things we live out as we imitate the faith. Brotherly love as we humble ourselves. A life of showing hospitality. A life of faithfulness in marriage and honoring the marriage bed by enjoying sexual relations only with our spouse in the God-ordained way it was intended. A life of contentment with what we have, and not being lovers of money. Knowing the Lord is our helper and that He will never leave us or forsake us. Oh, how we need that promise in our day-to-day living!
Due to our sinful flesh, we do not always imitate our faithful leaders in Christ. The Greek root of the word “imitate” in verse 7 gives us the English words mimic and pantomime. At work here is the practice of copying the mannerisms or behavior of someone or something. The people were to mimic the faithfulness of their leaders. They were to be “faithful unto death” just as their leaders were.
How Is Your Imitation? Too often we mimic the world which is enthralled with sinful pleasures and activities. Cultural influences have an impact on Christians. Do Christians use better language than society? Maybe a little, but we condone it or turn the other way when we hear it in surround sound in our home or local movie theater. Other than “hell” or “damn” which are not used in the context of profanity, I cannot find profane words in the Bible. How can we show brotherly love if we are shouting epithets at each other?
We need the help of Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday and today and forever. Christ is consistent and faithful and obedient. Through the power of the Holy Spirit given in our Baptism into Christ and through the proclamation of God’s continuing forgiveness, we are enabled to imitate the example of faithful, godly Christian leaders.
Ludwig Nommensen went as a missionary to the isolated Balak tribe. He stayed for two years to study the customs and language of the people. At the end of that time, the chief asked him if there was anything in the Christian religion that differed from their customs. The chief said, “We have laws like you – one must not steal or kill or bear false witness.” The missionary answer quietly, “My Master gives us the power to keep these laws.” The chief was startled. “Can you teach my people this power?” “No, I cannot. But God can give it to them if they listen to His Word.” The missionary was given six more months to demonstrate and teach this power of God. At the end of the time the chief said, “Stay. Your law is better than ours. Ours tells us what to do. Your God gives you strength to do it.”
We have poor examples of people to imitate – political leaders, TV reality celebrities and maybe even those in our inner circle. But God through His Word and His grace helps us to imitate and remain faithful in our Christlike walk. Through the Holy Spirit follow these leaders as they follow Christ. Then your imitation will be the sincerest form of flattery. Amen.