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Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but [imitate] what is good. The one who practices good [exhibiting godly character, moral courage, and personal integrity] is of God; the one who practices [or permits or tolerates] evil has not seen God [he has no personal experience with Him and does not know Him at all] (3 John 1:11 AMP).
Before babies develop their own personalities, they mimic everything they see—good or bad—everything. The Word tells us to teach our children the way they should go:
Train up a child in the way he should go [teaching him to seek God’s wisdom and will for his abilities and talents], even when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).
Teaching and modeling what’s good will make a difference in the lives of young people as they grow and mature. That is why it is essential for us to be doers of the Word rather than hearers only.
Have you seen the movie, Imitation of Life? (It was made in the 30s and then remade in the late 50s.) It was epic, innovative, and quite radical for its time. It involved a very fair-skinned black girl passing as white to obtain better opportunities that would lead to a better life. The idea of wanting a better life is not inherently evil, but the idea of faking your identity to be someone else is not good. Doing so would make you a perpetrator, a fake, a counterfeit, and encourages lies and a whole lot of deceptive behavior. Her life was not an imitation of good, much to the detriment of herself and the people in her life.
Sadly, many movies and television shows depict how not to live. Now, let’s also briefly consider video games. Video games are so popular, and the animation is so real that they vividly imitate life’s experiences. But are they imitating good? Once again, the answer is often no.
How about church leaders? Can you look to them for inspiration? When they actively choose to follow Christ and obey Him, then yes.
Remember your leaders [for it was they] who brought you the word of God; and consider the result of their conduct [the outcome of their godly lives] and imitate their faith [their conviction that God exists and is the Creator and Ruler of all things, the Provider of eternal salvation through Christ, and imitate their reliance on God with absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness] (Hebrews 13:7).
Interestingly, the Bible includes stories of evil that no one should imitate, such as those of Cain, Delilah, and Saul. However, there are many more stories from Scripture that portray good behavior—including the stories of Joseph, Daniel, Esther, and especially, of course, the story our beloved Savior, Jesus.
In the 11th chapter of Hebrews, you’ll find a discussion about the heroes of the Bible, describing how their faith catapulted them into the “faith hall of fame” and demonstrating behavior that should be imitated.
But you can also find beautiful stories told every day in this world that should inspire us all—stories of people volunteering to help disaster victims, medical professionals working countless hours to help, missionaries working in remote places to share the Gospel, and regular people going beyond the call of duty.
Since we are to imitate good, an effective way to do that is to “pay it forward.” The concept of paying it forward is a good example of imitating good. It involves someone doing a good deed—and the person receiving that good deed is required to do the same—to “pay it forward” to someone else. There is even a Pay It Forward day!
Father, thank You for wonderful examples of what is good that we should imitate. Help us to do what is right, to model the excellent examples and the beautiful stories of love found in Your Word. We thank You for Your goodness toward us—and all the good that You do in this world for us to imitate.
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