Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 11:1
Paul was not afraid. He boldly stood before kings and officials to declare the gospel. He courageously risked his life to advance the gospel. He was unwilling to compromise the truth of the gospel in the face of persecution.
But I believe Paul was brave for another reason. He was unafraid to open up his life to others. This is a risky thing. And yet, that is what we continually see him doing. Paul was always bringing someone along with him, such as Luke, Timothy, and Titus to name a few. With each of these men he would pour his life into theirs. And then he would repeatedly write to the various churches to imitate him, to look at his example, to walk according to the pattern they had seen in him.
In order for this to take place, Paul had to open up his life. He had to allow others to see him on a daily basis in order to provide an example for them to follow. As a result, Paul was a master of discipleship. He possessed a profound ability to train up the next generation of ministers and servants of the church to carry on the proclamation of the gospel.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case within the church today. We are afraid to open up our lives like that. We are fearful that others will then see that we do not have everything figured out. Our lives are not perfect. We do not have all the answers. And so, we hide. We hide behind a pretend life that we construct on social media or in the hallways of the church.
What we don’t often realize is that in doing this, we limit our ability to make disciples. New Christians and immature Christians who want to grow in their faith see us and then look at themselves. They know they are weak and full of struggles and temptations. But they do not see it in us. And so, they assume that we are perfect and they are not. They assume they have too far too go in their faith. And at times they give up or settle into a form of complacency and mediocrity.
And that is why it is so important to follow Paul’s call to imitate him as he imitated Christ. We too are called to open up our lives to others. To allow them to see that we are not perfect either. To show them what our faith looks like in the day to day trenches of life. To show how we extend grace, love, and compassion to others. To demonstrate how we say we are sorry when we make mistakes and accept the apology of others when they offend us. To provide a real example of real faith.
But this is not easy. It will take boldness and courage. But in the end, it is definitely worth it. It is worth it to see how our lives can impact the lives of others. Not by pretending to be something we are not. But by allowing God’s grace to flow through us into the lives of others. After all, God loves to use imperfect people to impact others.
And so, be encouraged to follow Paul’s example to open up your lives to others. Allow them to see your imperfection. Allow them to see the scars and the mistakes. And then point them to how God’s grace has been magnified in your life as a result. And along the way, don’t be surprised if taking off the mask of superficiality is not a freeing thing for your own soul as well.