Monday, March 30, 2009

Imitation… (Hebrews 6:9-12) 200309

The author of Hebrews begins this section by addressing his readers as ‘beloved’ (v9, NASB) or ‘dear friends’ (NIV). The NASB has a better translation here, because the original Greek word used here is agapetoi. This word gives us a sense of tender endearment and genuine love from the author to the readers. This is the only time such expression is used in the Hebrews, and Leon Morris comments the following:

For the only time in the epistle the writer here addresses the readers as "beloved" (agapetoi; NIV, "dear friends"). He has a tender concern for his correspondents, even though he has had to say some critical things about them.

In my opinion, the author’s sudden change of his tone has his purpose; and I think he wants his readers to take note of what he is about to say. In verse 10, he presents the justness of God, and encourages his readers to be diligent to realize the full assurance of hope in verse 11. How? By imitating those who have gone before them through faith and patience inherit the promises (v12).

To me, verse 12 is a very rich verse, but surprisingly, I don’t find much comment on this. There are a few words need to be unpacked with the help of the context. The promise in verse 12 will be discussed in the coming verses (v13-20). And those people who are to be imitated have to refer to later chapters. But nonetheless, verse 12 is an anchor point to switch the readers’ attention to what is needed to be done.

So, what is needed to be done? Imitation. In our modern society, this is a bad word. Imitation is the same as copying, it means the imitator has nothing original to offer, he is merely a follower. Imitation of branded products is illegal. But for Christian, imitation is the way to grow. We are to imitate those who have gone before us. The idea of imitation is prominent in the early days Christians. Paul urges his readers to imitate him as he imitates Christ. Therefore, Christ is our ultimate object of imitation.

Are you an imitator? Do you have someone to imitate after? You may think that imitation will cause you to lose your own unique identity. And this is the precise problem why imitation is so necessary in Christian growth: we are to lose ourselves so that we can gain more of Christ in us. As the saying goes: Christ increase and I decrease.

Actually, I am a great imitator! I imitate the way good preacher preaches, so that I can improve. I also imitate good authors, so that I can improve my writing. I am surely an imitator of Christ, but an incomplete one at this moment. But I am diligently imitating. How about you? Is there anyone whom you know is exhibiting good quality of Christ you want to imitate? It is alright to lose your own identity. After all, we are to die to self, so that Christ can live in us.

And again, I cannot help to reflect this in the context of this season of Lent. As we approach the Cross, we approach Christ. As we look at the Cross, we look at Christ. How can we be more Christ-like? How can we imitate Christ?

After all, we are an imitation of Christ.


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