Our son is one of the best imitators I know. Words, mannerisms, actions – nothing escapes his attention. He will imitate anything and everything – especially if it comes from kids that are his age or a little older. He looks up to those older children. Those children look up to kids older than them, who look up to teenagers, and the list can keep going. No matter where you are at in life, there is always someone ahead of you to look up to, and there is always someone a few steps back looking up to you. This principle is no different when we look at our own family in Christ.
When I think about the body of Christ, I cannot help but think of a flying V of birds. In a flying V formation, the bird at the very front takes on the hardest job. This bird is cutting through the air at full force. The birds behind benefit from the airflow and do not have to work as hard to fly. The further back a bird is in the formation, the less flapping is required and the heart rate begins to slow.
It is pretty fascinating!
As a follower of Christ, God is obviously the head of our V formation, but we also have brothers and sister in front of us and behind us.
Paul says himself in 1 Corinthians 11:1,
“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
We are all within this formation of believers with Christ at the forefront.
We just have to be careful of who we follow and lead those behind us wisely. Because, just as in a flying V formation of birds, when one bird strays off, many follow. Just look at the apostle Peter!
Peter had a vision that was clear about what is clean vs. unclean. He knew what was true, but eventually strayed away from said truth. This scripture can be found in Paul’s letter to the Galatians.
Paul tells us of how Peter had been dining with both Christian Jews and Christian Gentiles. When a group of legalistic Jews came, Peter eventually transitioned to eating traditional meals with only the Jews. He strayed from what he knew to be true. With Peter deflecting this way, others followed!
Galatians 2:11-13 says,
“But when Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.”
As with anyone marked by leadership, when Peter moved, others moved. The Gentiles were then left to start believing that they too should be following traditional Jewish ways, even though this was not the case.
Thankfully, Peter quickly returned to the formation as well as those behind him.
There will always be people in our lives that are ahead of us that we can imitate, but we also have an extraordinary opportunity within our grasp. Not only can we imitate those ahead of us, but we can imitate Jesus himself based on the writings of the New Testament! Birds in the middle to back of the pack may have to trust the one in front of them to stay in line, but we have a clear picture of the leader through the written Word of God.
It can be easy to look at Peter’s circumstance and blame the fact that others followed him because of his leadership title. However, no matter where we are in our walk, we are leaders.
Just as my son’s little eyes and ears catch everything that a kindergartner does, there are spiritually little eyes and ears out there that are looking up to even the newest of Christians.
So what do we do? We make sure that our eyes and ears are following those in front of us while keeping our eye on the leader through His written Word. That way, if someone in front of us strays, we can still stay on track along with everyone behind us.