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by Bubba Jennings
Are You Imitating or Idolizing?
As a young woman and a fragile new believer, I longed for examples of godly women to learn from.
There was one wonderful woman that I admired too much. Instead of being encouraged by her maturity in Christ, I made being like her the goal for my growth. For me, imitation became idolatry.
Imitation keeps Jesus as the goal. Idolatry makes being like that person the goal. Being like this woman became more motivating than being like Jesus. Now, as an adult, I’m not immune from this temptation. From Martha Stewart to the Proverbs 31 woman, my heart is easily persuaded to idolize. Idolatry of a particular woman brings condemnation; instead of feeling inspired, it feels like I can never measure up. For some, it's an imaginary woman we long to be and this fictitious perfection is the unattainable goal.
When it comes to being a Christian woman, there's often a desire to become or look like what we think a Christian woman is. We read women’s role books, attend women’s groups, watch shows aimed at women, and compare ourselves all along the way. If there were a Christian Barbie, we would own her.
What Is Idolatry?
Our words, affections, thoughts, and deeds reflect what we worship. When we survey our lives, we often find replacements for God. We idolize people when when we put their opinion, love, and acceptance in place of God’s or when we move past respect and strive to look like, be like, or act like them.
Imitation keeps Jesus as the goal. Idolatry makes being like that person the goal.
We see this sometimes with women’s events and groups that often communicate the "formulas" on how to be a Christian woman while the subtle pressure sets in to be the five things she embodies. On the stage of our hearts is the Christian Barbie with her perfect worship, home, family, and heart. Before we realize it, we’ve built an altar to her. Is it wrong to give Godly examples of how women worship Jesus? No. But we must hear God reminding us not to idealize and idolize, and instead imitate godly women as they imitate Jesus. We must not buy the Christian Barbie.
What Is Imitation?
More than just copying, the purpose of imitation is to draw us closer to Jesus. Imitating someone is seeing their life lived in humble worship, and we respond with similar obedience enabled by the Holy Spirit. We can learn from, be sharpened by, and enjoy their Christ-exalting example.
Scripture gives us good examples of people who feared God and walked in faith. We are told to be encouraged by their lives and to fight for a faith in Jesus like their own. "We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised" (Hebrews 6:11-12).
We must hear God reminding us not to idealize and idolize, and instead imitate godly women as they imitate Jesus.
Imitation feels like a fresh breeze of grace as we are encouraged to live lives that glorify God. "Join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us" (Philippians 3:17).
We Are Called To Be Imitators of God
"Therefore, be imitators of God as beloved children" (Ephesians 5:1). Our lives lived in response to God’s love is worship. We adore, praise, and imitate Jesus who is the author and perfecter of our faith. As we grow closer to Jesus, we become more like him.
To close, I want to leave you with this quote from Charles Spurgeon,
- To love is to adore! To obey is to praise! To act is to worship! If you are imitators of God as dear children, your adoration will be proved to be sincere. Worship unattended by imitation is fake—true adoration dwells not in words only—as it comes from the heart, so it affects the entire nature and shows itself in the daily behavior.