Sincerest Form of Flattery...
I have three children and I can tell you that imitation is a HUGE part of the learning process. My son, the middle child, is always trying to do what his big sister does (and occasionally the converse happens). I don't think that flattery is their desire, in fact it often ends up annoying the target, but it can often give them an excuse for poor behavior. And too often it's poor behavior that they imitate.
Yesterday I was just completely disconnected from what was going on in church. I was there physically and mentally, but not emotionally or spiritually. That wasn't a good thing especially since I was singing with the choir. It's part of an ongoing spiritual schizophrenia I've been having of late.
On one side I feel really motivated to help out where needed (volunteering for the men's retreat, trying to find a place in the education/nurturing ministry, calling people who I thought could use a good word). On the other I just don't feel... connected with God. When I pray (which has been occurring with greater frequency and involving my wife) it just feels like me talking. Sometimes I just want to give up.
That got me to thinking about a passage in the NT that talks about being imitators of Christ. I did a quick search and there are actually three passages that talk about imitation.Ephesians 5:1-2
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 1 Thessalonians 1:6
You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.1 Thessalonians 2:14-15
For you, brothers, became imitators of God's churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out.
The first calls us to live lives of sacrifice and love through imitating Christ. The second and third urge us to continue in spite of suffering. We must, as children of God, imitate our Father (and older brother), but we aren't doing it to flatter. Instead our goal should be to learn and grow. We also have to imitate because that level of sacrifice and love is not in our nature. Imitation is our nature and too often we, like my children, pick up the bad habits we see. That's why we need to pick our role models carefully.
The amount of love and sacrifice we are called to is daunting and truthfully I expect my level of success to be about the same as when my five year old tries to imitate my serious frown. That shouldn't discourage us though. I believe that God knows us at least as well as I know my daughter and he doesn't expect us to be perfect any more than I expect her to. The high bar doesn't mean we should give up or fail to even try.