The word "imitate" has negative connotations in modern day society. We all want to be our own unique self and copying somebody else in any form is shockingly unacceptable.
It is only natural to want to be like someone else. I am the oldest child and during my childhood I had three older cousins who lived beside me. I was always trying to be like my older female cousin while my little sister was always copying me. This attitude of wanting to change to be like someone else continues through school when striving to be like the popular crowd. Of course imitating is not all bad - providing that we have the correct role models.
The Bible verse above is so simple. We must strive to be like God in everything; in our words, our actions and our thoughts. Why do you think this verse says: "as beloved children"? I think the reason is twofold: we are God's children and we are always learning as we walk in our Christian faith. We will never stop learning or growing.
It truly is a compliment to be copied. Hebrews 13:7 talks about our leaders but what happens if some of our leaders do not live exemplary lives? (read "What happens When Those in Authority Ask You To Go Against God's Law?" ) I can think of many church leaders and role models from my past who are already in eternity but their earthly example still lives on in my memory and still affects my actions today. I strive to live like they did.
This verse in 3 John continues on from what we were just talking about - imitating a decent leader and NOT imitating an evil role model. I'm reminded of the wonderful old hymn: "They will know that we are Christians by our love" (< click title to listen to entire song). If our actions are good in God's eyes then we are succeeding at imitating Him and those around us will see God through our actions.
Often I feel closest to Christ when I am in the middle of a crisis. Imitating Jesus in the "midst of suffering" can be the most difficult at the time. However, you will notice after the hardship has finished that you had received peace and joy from the Holy Spirit during the darkest time.
Laziness can sneak up on anyone. Striving to be Christ-like is hard work and often we just become lazy. Christians sometimes get a lazy attitude by thinking that since our sins are forgiven we just don't have to try that hard - that is the kind of laziness that creates sin.
Imitating Christ takes a lifetime but it's worth every second because we know that when our earthly life ends we will be living in eternity with Jesus!
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