"Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." [1 Corinthians 11:1]
Jesus' invitation to his first disciples (those who would learn to live the "Jesus Way" and become 'fishers of men') was simply to "follow Him", to be with Him and see what he did, how he lived and loved people, to see what was important to him and how he prioritized his life. It wasn't in a classroom but as they walked along the road, as they sat around a meal table or at a picnic, as they attended weddings, funerals and 'church' together. Discipleship is more caught than taught as the saying goes.
Then Paul takes this same model and applies it to all believers when he invites the Christians at Corinth to follow his example as he in turn, seeks to follow the example of Christ. Ultimately the invitation is not to become like Paul, but like Jesus as revealed through the life of Paul. Can you imagine saying the same thing to other people yourself? I hope so, or I hope that it becomes your experience soon as it is one of the most meaningful and fulfilling experiences there is as followers of Jesus!
Some of us might feel ill-equipped for the task, or feel that it is beyond you to have that kind of influence. Yet the reality is that all of us at different times, will have influenced and helped shape to some extent the lives of others, whether we know it or not. This is especially true if you have raised children as they observe and mimic words and behavior quite instinctively. The problem is that sometimes we wish they wouldn't as we can start to see ourselves in them or hear our own words coming out of them.
So, if it is going to happen anyway, let's seek to make it a positive experience that truly glorifies the Lord and causes his life in us to be multiplied. It seems to me that two things are particularly important if we are to be effective and productive in this. One is that we get close to people, we foster a more intimate relationship or friendship (just like Jesus did). Then secondly that we enjoy the experienced reality of Christ within us, through the indwelling Spirit, and that we choose to 'release' this life through expressions of love.
I want to encourage all of you to be pursuing more intentionally, deeper friendships with one or two others, friendships that become redemptive and help build and foster more authentic Christian community. For those of us who are married, our first responsibility must also be to "try this at home"!