Imitation is fun. At least, it is for my 5 year old daughter as she plays Elsa from Disney’s Frozen… ‘Let it go, let it go…’, but already I digress.
Imitation is also normal, for not only what I do but also how I do it has been shaped, in large part, by others. Imitation, however, can be dangerous. We live in a fallen world where value and status are often attached to things like education, wealth, glamour, and power. The pursuit of these things as ultimate invariably involves a rejection of God, destruction of community and dominance over others. To imitate our first parents, Adam and Eve, is to destroy any possibility of real unity, fellowship, and community.
Being a Christian – living in a manner worthy of the gospel – doesn’t mean giving up imitation, but adopting new models to imitate. Jesus is first and foremost our Lord and Saviour (Philippians 2: 11; 3: 20), yet his riches to rags story of becoming a man and dying on a cross also provides us with an example of humility and obedience to follow. Though he enjoyed all the privileges and power that come from being equal with God, Jesus refused to use these privileges for selfish ends, opting instead to give not get, to serve not be served, to obey not dominate (Philippians 2: 6-8). The call to have the mind of Christ – to imitate his attitude – means nothing less than being humble, united, loving, and willing to put the interests of others ahead of our own (Philippians 2: 2-4).
What if we imitated Jesus with the kind of enthusiasm and simplicity a child imitates their favourite Disney character? Not in the sense of imitating his saving work, for that we are not called to do, but in the Philippians 2 sense of adopting his attitude. Such an idea might seem too childish for some. However, C.S. Lewis once argued that if a believer pretends to be like Jesus – say, in the way my daughter pretends to be Elsa – what tends to happen is that the moment they begin playing they discover ways in which the pretence could become reality.