The Reading: Philippians 3:17-21
“… enemies of the cross …” (v.18) RSV
We need human examples to imitate. Paul told the Philippians they should imitate him (v.17), and he added they should also imitate others who imitate “us”, that is, Paul and his leadership team.
Mind you even the members Paul’s team were not always paragons of virtue. For instance Demas, who is mentioned in several earlier letters is finally said to have deserted Paul’s team because he was “in love with this present world” (2 Timothy 4:10).
We know that it is sadly true that some of those ‘over us in the Lord’ (priest, vicars, ministers, deacons, etc.) have let the side down. The distraction or even lusts of the world have gotten the better of them. Plainly we are not called to follow their example!
What we do need are good and godly people who are consistent in their walk of faith through this life. We can learn by observing them, seeing how they cope with pressure and temptation, how they deal with people, and how they worship. Flesh and blood exemplars are vital.
Have we been blessed to have godly parents or teachers who inspired faith in us? And are we being good models for others to imitate, especially (if we are parents) our children?
Paul warns, and warns repeatedly, against “many” (v.18) in Philippi who “live as enemies of the cross of Christ” (v.18). This does not mean that their preaching is against the cross, but that their lives are not taking up their cross daily. They are not denying themselves and following the example of Jesus. Instead, they are following the desires of their flesh: “their god is their belly” (v.19). This is a cautionary tale for those of us in leadership. If our minds are “set on earthly things” then we are in danger of leading others astray.
Lord, lead me to imitate Jesus, Paul and others who follow you. Keep me from wrongful worldliness. Amen.
1 How does Jesus describe discipleship?
2 Note other injunctions to ‘imitate’.