“Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me.” I Cor. 4:16
“Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” I Cor. 11:1
Good People Make You Want to be a Better Person
By Terry Gardner
Human beings learn by imitation. When we learned to talk there was no formal training, we simply imitated the adults around us. We paid attention to what they said and to the meaning of their words and soon we began to talk. We all learn far more from what we see our parents do than we learn from their words. “Actions speak louder than words” because actions have more influence than words.
We not only learn by imitation as children but we continue to learn the same way as adults. Paul understood this lesson and therefore he warns us not to be deceived “Bad company corrupts good morals.” I Cor 15:33. We learn from and want to be like the people with whom we hang out. They will rub off on us and before we know it we’ll act like them. If they are good, we’ll be better people. If they are immoral, we’ll go down that path.
How many of us have imitated some feature of our parent’s personality that as children we hated? Then one day, we look in the mirror and find ourselves doing the exact thing our father (or mother) did, that we promised ourselves we’d never do! The training we receive as children is very powerful. We will all imitate something. Too often we imitate the poorer qualities of our friends, parents and other role models. The purpose of this essay is to make clear that we all have a choice to make and we can choose to imitate the better angels of our family and friends.
A number of years ago a senior executive was retiring and I was tasked to find him temporary office space. He had the typical office of a senior executive, it was large with a fine view. He told me he only wanted a small office space. I suggested we go look at such a space so that he could actually see the size of the office he had described. As we entered the small office, I looked at him and his face had fallen. Then he smiled at me and said, “Terry, I didn’t think I had an ego, but I guess I do.” I replied, “We can get you a much bigger office. We have the money budgeted.” He then replied, “Terry I’d never waste the money for something like that. I’ll get over my ego.” Humility means you take your thoughts captive and do the right thing even when you could “afford” to do something else.
I had lunch a few years ago with a prominent businessman with whom I had been closely associated for ten years. Something came up about where he had gone to law school. “Harvard,” he replied. He had never mentioned this fact before and it was still no big deal to him. If I had graduated from Harvard Law School I’d be tempted to have a crimson “H” tattooed on my forehead. Humility means that I am “not to think more highly of” myself “than I ought to think.” Rom. 12:3. No one is better than anyone else because of where they went to school, how much education they have nor what job they do.
Several years ago a man named Ken Estep came into our assembly. He was terminally ill and a little angry. It had been a long time since he’d really followed God. He did not have any money and there was little he could do to assist God’s work in Indianapolis. Ken had a lot of needs. James reminds us that we are not to be a respecter of persons or judge people by how much money they make nor by how they dress. James 2:1-4. The Hebrew writer tells us that in doing good to strangers some “entertained angels without knowing it.” Greg York and others ministered to Ken until he passed from this life into the next one. Good people who make me want to be a better man.
During the last month the message that the Brantly family wanted delivered was to keep the focus off the family, off Kent and “on those suffering with Ebola and give God the glory.” Kent shared with us the Sunday before last that those we describe as “heroes of faith” were all ordinary people doing great things by the power of God. Humility means we give God the glory. Remember Moses was kept out of the promised land because he took glory that belonged to God for the miracle of the water from the rock. Keep in mind too that if we make individuals heroes then we come to think that we can’t do what they did. Jesus took twelve ordinary men and “turned the world upside” with them because the power was in God, not in them. The twelve apostles were ordinary men who did extraordinary things by the power of God. We are all ordinary men and women and each of us can do things that are great in God’s estimation if we will follow him where he leads and do our best to make sure that the Glory goes to God. If we’ll focus on the examples set by good people we’ll all be better. Imitate good people as they imitate Christ and always remember the source of all goodness is God.