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Off a Bridge

Beloved, do not imitate what is evil but imitate what is good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. 3 John 1:11 NRSV

The Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde is credited with saying, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." While I don't know if this statement is absolute, it has some truth. There's no time this is more obvious than our teen years when our peers easily influence us. Frustrated, our parents would return with witty retorts like, "If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you too?" (Guilty, I've" used this one.) Their point being we need to exercise wisdom in following our peers. But, of course, this parental caution doesn't apply only to teenagers; we must be careful who we imitate.

The apostle John'sdoesn't epistle, written some fifty years after the death of Christ, has no addressee as an instruction to the church at large. At the same time, the church was growing, and the true gospel was being spread; perversions of the gospel were being taught. One such teacher was Diotrephes (v. 9), who, in addition to spreading falsehoods, was removing people from the church who disagreed with him. John'sJohn'sdoesn't warning was to exercise wisdom, not following the gnostic teachers off the bridge but instead clinging to the true gospel.

John's message is timeless; we still have false teachers today whose gospel is meant only to tickle our itching ears (2 Timothy 4:3). Their messages sound enticing. So we must exercise spiritual discernment in who we follow (2 Peter 2:1-3). Those who preach the truth and, through their lives, demonstrate the actions of Jesus–exercising compassion, kindness, humility, and love–we follow; otherwise, we steer a wide berth.

But this is a message not just of who we should and should not follow. It comes down to taking responsibility for our actions. As followers of Christ, we know what is expected of us. We are copiers of Jesus, demonstrating who God is to the world by imitating him.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the teachings of your teachers of old and those of today. They help us to understand who you are and your desire for us. By the Holy Spirit, guide our discernment in listening to their messages so we may hear your truth. May we hear more than pleasant words but the food for our souls and the light for our feet. May we imitate your Son Jesus Christ, rejecting evil and doing good. Amen.


Pastor Tim

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