The Apostle Paul wrote the letter of 1 Corinthians to a very disturbed church. They were divided on many issues. They quarreled. There was jealousy, sexual immorality, and lawsuits among them. In the midst of thanking God for this troubled population of believers, teaching and instructing them, offering warnings and rebukes—some gentle, some not—Paul continued to respond to the situations and concerns of their day.
After encouraging them to do everything to glorify God and reminding them not to cause their sisters or brothers in Christ to stumble or get off the course of their faith journey, Paul wrote that he was seeking the good of many and his desire was that people he encountered would be saved. This is exactly the type of declarations I would expect to read from a missionary or evangelist like Paul.
Then he continued with the statement, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ (1 Cor. 11:1 NIV).” Reading this statement always makes me nervous. At first glance, it is easy to present this verse as a mentoring or leadership topic of consideration. Of course it is. If a disciple is indeed a follower of Christ—which Paul is—then why is it so hard to conceive that he would encourage others to follow him? After all, one sign of a leader is that they have people who are willing to follow them. So I look at the Apostle Paul, the person who wrote almost half of the New Testament, and I think to myself, “Who would not want to follow that guy?”
I get nervous when I read this passage not because I wonder, “Who would want to follow me,” but rather because I shy away from asking or expecting anyone to “follow my example.” Even though I was trained in a “lead by example” culture, the very thought of making that statement in the church sounds prideful and self-righteous. Yet, Paul did make the statement. I get nervous because I know for all of the ways that I desire to follow Christ, there are ways in which I fall short daily. I get nervous not simply because I don’t want to mess up. I will. I get nervous because I really want to seek the good of many, and it is my desire that those I encounter will be saved. The reality is, I get nervous because I don’t want to mess them up.
I attended Sunday morning worship and for the first time, I reflected on this passage and considered silently, “Maybe I am putting unnecessary pressure on myself. Just maybe I am making too big of a deal out of this.” I stood behind a mom who was holding her four or five year old daughter on her hip. As mom focused more on the lyrics of the song, I watched one of her hands raise slowly in the air and her daughter gently glide down her side. The little one stood on the cushioned chair, gazed up at her mom, grabbed her mom’s waist and lifted her hands in worship too.
I smiled. There a mom was modeling the life of a disciple, the life of a follower, and the life of a worshipper of Christ. There her daughter followed her example. No pressure. It’s just that simple.
Will you follow Christ? Will others follow you?
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2014