Dear brothers and sisters pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. – Philippians 3:17
8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything, worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
In the late 1960s, an anti-smoking commercial called “Like Father, Like Son” was aired on network TV. It showed a father and his young son spending a day together doing a variety of things such as painting the house, washing the car, going for a walk, and relaxing under a tree.
In each scene, the little boy carefully tried to mimic everything that his father did. Each time they did this, the narrator would say, “Like father, like son.”
The final scene shows the two of them sitting under a tree where the father casually pulled out a cigarette and lit it up. He set the pack down next to the son, who picked up the pack and began to take out a cigarette for himself. Once again, the narrator said, “Like father, like son.”
The commercial aired for over fourteen years. It was memorable and influential. On a further note on December 31, 1970, the last cigarette commercial aired on network TV. It aired on NBC at 11:57 PM during “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson.
The apostle Paul knew well the power of examples. Most people, particularly children, look to others to pattern our lives after for one reason or another. They may be real or imagined “heroes” from our lives whom we hold in high esteem: parents, coaches, peers, athletes, celebrities, popular media personalities, superheroes, etc. Paul was bold enough and confident enough to hold himself up as an example for others to follow.
2 Thessalonians 3:7-9
7 For you know that you ought to imitate us. We were not idle when we were with you.
8 We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so we would not be a burden to any of you.
9 We certainly had the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow.
But there is more. Paul had mastered the art and science of imitating the Lord Jesus Christ. When Paul tells us to imitate him, what he means is to imitate him as he is learned to imitate the Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1 And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.
The underlying truth is that Paul was imitating Christ. If Paul can do it so can any child of the King.
REFLECT & PRAY
There are untold numbers of examples of people that we can follow. Choose wisely.
Father, I want to imitate the Lord Jesus Christ and follow his example. Encourage me and empower me to do so.
What does imitate or follow an example mean? It is to accept somebody or something as a guide, a leader, or an example; to copy somebody or something. Many idioms have spun off of this idea such as follow in somebody’s footsteps – have the same lifestyle, follow your nose – to go straight forward, or a hard/tough act to follow – a person or event that is so good or successful at something that it will be difficult for others to be as good or successful.
2 Thessalonians 3:9 To offer ourselves as a model for you so that you would follow our example.
This verse can also be translated as “it was to provide you with ourselves as a pattern and example to copy” or “so that we might offer ourselves to you as a pattern of behavior” (UBS).
The Greek word translated model is tupos. Tupos denotes a representative form or pattern, a pattern of conduct, a prototype if you will.
The Greek word translated follow our example, imitate is mimeomai. Mimeomai means to reproduce someone else’s behavior or appearance. The English word mimic is derived from this term. It means to do what others do.
“In many languages, one cannot speak of ‘following an example,’ but one can ‘do as others do’ or ‘live in the same way that others live.’ Therefore, one may translate the final part of verse 9 as ‘we worked as we did, so that you would know how to live as we lived,’ or ‘. . . do as we did’” (UBS).
Paul wanted to avoid any conflict of interest. He refused to live off the children of the King whom he cared for and nurtured. He raised the bar and set an extremely high example for all of us to mimic. “What kind of example did Paul have in mind? His actions might illustrate generosity, humility, self-sacrifice, a willingness to work hard for the kingdom, acceptance of personal responsibility, and/or numerous other virtues” (Michael Martin).
Paul’s statement is nuanced with several layers of significance. Paul is “all in.” He held nothing back. “‘To make ourselves’ is literally ‘order that we might give ourselves.’ This form of expression brings out something of the self-abasement implied in Paul’s action. It reminds us of his other statement that ‘we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as’ (1 Thessalonians 2:8). ‘Ourselves’ is emphatic. They gave not only a message, but themselves. They did not only what was required, but more. They went the second mile.”
“The Thessalonians are reminded that this was not a mere piece of pageantry or showmanship, but had a very definite purpose. It was an example that they should follow. If Paul, who had the right to maintenance, had foregone that right and worked with his hands to earn his living, much more should rank-and-file Thessalonians not seek to be kept by the labors of other people” (Morris).
It is safe to say that most people attempt to follow someone else that they admire. The apostle Paul chose to follow the example of the Lord Jesus Christ. He beckons us to do likewise.
Who do you follow?