“No, Daddy would say…” and so saying, Maayana flung herself backwards into the armchair, adopted a recognizable posture, and continued with a fair impersonation of her father “…Maayana, I don’t know where your Barbie is, have you looked for it?” and folded her arms in an impeccable copy of her father, leaving all the adults rolling in mirth. Maayana had walked into the room where, after the Christmas chaos, adults had been packing anything which seemed abandoned. After a short investigation, she turned to me and asked, “Granddad, where is my Barbie?” I responded, “I don’t know, Maayana; why don’t you ask your Daddy?” to generate the polished performance.
A little later, I was taking orders for the drinks at dinner – the children’s treat is a fruit juice bottle of Orange, Apple or Blackcurrant. Aedan hoved into sight: “What do you want to drink, Aedan?” “Apple, please, Granddad, oh, um, Blackcurrant please.” And off he rushed, only to return two minutes later, “Actually, Granddad, what’s Euan having? I want the same as Euan. Whatever Euan’s having.” And rushed off. Fortunately for Aedan, Euan was having Blackcurrant. Aedan has taken a shine to Euan, loves to play with him and basically wants to be him.
Jake sat on the kitchen table in his ‘bumbo’, which allows him to sit up comfortably even at 5 months, surrounded by his parents and grandparents. He supplements his milk with formula milk, and started ‘solids’ while he was with us. After he had cheerfully slurped down baby porridge, Emma decided to try him on mashed vegetable, trying a little mashed carrot, courgette and potato in turn. Jake watched carefully as all around him ate their dinners, opening and closing his mouth in sympathy. When Carl started to feed Jake with his carrot, everyone started opening and closing their mouths in sympathy with Jake and going ‘Mmmm’ – looking perfectly ridiculous had anyone seen us then! Jake copied the adults and opened his mouth and tried the carrot. As he looked round at his adults, he swallowed, and although he registered some surprise at the taste, he accepted the vegetable and seemed ready to try solids; I’m not sure if the faintly ridiculous adult antics helped, but he seemed to be copying them. In the same way, I came into the living room to find Diane rolling his monkey by his tail in front of him: “I’m showing him how to roll with monkey – only Jake’s problem is he hasn’t got a tail!”
Maayana, Aedan, Jake – and all of us – learn by imitation, whether to hilarious effect, hero worship or skill acquisition. We learn social skills from each other, we learn habits, good and bad, from each other, we learn values and art appreciation and beauty and laughter from each other, we learn to be human from each other. So it should come as no surprise that the Bible is full of calls to learn from each other, to be imitators. St Paul makes repeated commands for us to imitate the faith of our pastors, teachers, preachers, to learn from them the art of faith. He expects them to learn from him as he in turn learns from Christ, to do everything in our power to learn and demonstrate the Christian virtues of putting Christ – and therefore others – first, of living to the glory of Christ in the service of all, as St Paul puts it: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offence to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (The Bible, 1 Corinthians 10.31-11.1)
Christ Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God, and shares His attributes, especially in the self-sacrificing love and service he demonstrates by his death on the cross – he is not only our Saviour but our example and exemplar; he asks nothing of us that he has not already undertaken and given himself, and that in full measure. He asks less of us than he has asked of himself, and in learning from him, we should be reshaping our lives. St Paul sums it up as “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” (The Bible, Ephesians 4.32-5.1) You may not have us rolling around in laughter, but you will illuminate all around you, giving a model of Christ for others to see – or as Jesus puts it “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (The Bible, Matthew 5.16)
Praying that you may be imitators of Christ in all you do to the Glory of God and the blessing of those around you.
Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ,