A few weeks ago, we had a fete for our Pastor’s wife who recently turned **. During the moments of thanks, a speak spoke about emulation, of emulation not only the Pastor, but his wife as well, and their marriage, when in some small way was being celebrated there as well. I know that the speaker could not go into emulation on that day, and that is fine for him, but I have been mediating upon emulation for a bit now.
Some define emulation as a mimic, or as the ambition to follow after one, or to excel. Emulation is easily meant to follow so closely after one, or to seek to build upon the successes of another. Both definitions are adequate. And in turning to the Scriptures, we find a command to watch closely those that follow Christ, to imitate them.
Be imitators of me, brothers and sisters, and watch carefully those who are living this way, just as you have us as an example.
(Php 3:17 NET)
Paul commands us thrice to ‘be followers’ of him. Paul’s reasoning is sound each time. If he is a follower of Christ, then if we imitate him, then we too will be followers of Christ. This is not to say that we must copy Paul’s actions and thereby be saved, instead, we learn from his manner of life and in following that, we learn about the Christian life.
Our pastor and his wife have been married for over 40 years. Yes, there have been hard times, no doubt, and yes, they have seen good times. They did not marry within the Church, only later coming to be found by God, so they did not have the foundation of holiness and the examples of saintly marriages. Yet, upon coming to God, they began to adopt certain aspects of the writers of the New Testament and those living examples set so rightly before them. In their own pastor, no doubt, did they find someone worth emulating.
It is the same for anyone who really sits under a pastor. If that pastor is a follower of Christ, then that pastor will have a life that is worth emulating. I wrestled with Paul’s commandment in 1st Corinthians 11.1, which should conclude the previous chapter. I wrestled with a meaning that fits the words. In my understanding, I can hear Paul telling us through the Corinthians to be followers of Paul in every way that he is a follower of Christ. Would Paul have meant that we must all be tent-makers? That is a difficult assumption at best. However, could Paul not have rather intended for the Saint to live a life of missionary service, even in a stationary posting, such as Paul lived? Ready to die for Christ, counting all things lost for Christ?
Did he wish everyone to develop the temper of himself? Or would he have rather us devote ourselves to living in peace with all men. Surely, he would have had us to stand firm for the Church, but it is easily recognized that Paul was somewhat harsh in his dealings with those seeking schism.
When I think of our pastor, I simply do not see a perfect man, nor his wife as a perfect woman; instead, I see perfected saints. I see a marriage that was withstood great change in the outside world, inside the Church, and yet, through the years, there is no doubt held by anyone that they dearly and wonderfully love each other. Yet, the marriage is not a perfect fit for everyone; however, it is a perfect example for all. In our emulation of them, we strive for the marriage that they have, seeking, however, to apply their examples to our lives but increase upon it.
When I first met my pastor, he said that his desire for his ministers was for them to excel and to be successful. Is this not a fatherly sentiment as well? Do we fathers really want our children to sit in our shadow or do we wish for them to take the best part of us and build upon it? Of course we want our children to use us as stepping stones!
This to is the sentiment of the Christian. We stand on the shoulders that come before us. We see the greatness in the lives of those that surround us, and like a buffet of character, we take those things that are right within us, and use those things to build our own life. We take the examples of sturdy marriages from a generation ago and digest the fruits thereof and use that nutrition as a foundation to model (not copy completely) our own marriages on.
We emulate our pastor and his wife, not in every way, but in every way in which they follow Christ.