Sometimes when I listen to myself preaching I can hear the influences of preachers and bible teachers that I have known over my younger years. I guess that is ok and in a sense inevitable. Sometimes it can go too far, to a quite ridiculous extent! I have heard of people stroking their invisible moustaches emulating a favourite preacher who did have a moustache. I have even heard of bald headed men flicking back a non existent lock of hair because of imitating someone who was influential upon them!
I was thinking today of a phrase of the Apostle Paul which I have mentioned before in a blog: “Imitate me in as far as I imitate Christ.” What does it really mean to imitate Christ? At the very least I guess it means asking questions like “What would Jesus do, what would He say, how would He react, how would He cope in this moment facing what I am facing, how would He meet this challenge or temptation?” It is not so difficult to work out the answer to these questions so long as we are giving the Bible a central place in our lives and thinking. However there is a thought that runs throughout Henri Nouwen’s writings that suggests another, perhaps fuller meaning: Jesus came as the Beloved of God, and spoke of the One who loved Him and called others to discover through Him that they were the Beloved of God too. He wants us to follow Him in that way as well; to live in this world as the Beloved of God, being a unique manifestation of that belovedness and helping others to discover their belovedness too and live out a unique expression of that.
So, let’s imitate Christ not only in behaviour and speech etc. but in His awareness of being the Beloved of the Father. That will free imitation from merely becoming copying and prevent us from becoming a clone even of other believers we admire or being irritated because others willl not conveniently become a clone of me! May belovedness become flesh for all to see in you and in me. May we help one another to know that perfect love that drives out all fear and sets us free to be who each one of us was truly made to be before circumstances, other people or we ourselves messed it up!
Brennan Manning suggests the following prayer that could help you. It is very short; it fits in with the rhythm of breathing in and breathing out; you can say it as many times through the day or night as is needful to set your heart at rest. Especially at those moments when I find my energy reserves low and don’t aways know why, short but powerful prayers are a blessing to me these days more than I can put into words. May this one be a blessing to you too. In prayer – it may come as a relief to you to hear this – small can be beautiful and powerful! Here is the prayer; ask Jesus to help you through the Holy Spirit to say it, mean it and believe it:
“ABBA, I BELONG TO YOU.”
Beloved one, why not use that prayer tonight before you close your eyes and tomorrow when you awaken, or indeed at any time of the day or night for that matter?
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