Copying others is risky, costs us our authenticity

I suppose it must be increasingly difficult in this star-studded, popularity and success-based culture not to try to copy

I suppose it must be increasingly difficult in this star-studded, popularity and success-based culture not to try to copy someone else. I have largely avoided the temptation by determining in the formative years of my pastoral ministry to endeavour not to copy anyone. I decided that if I could be nothing else, I would at least be original. Besides, trying to copy others, in addition to costing our authenticity, can be quite risky.

There is a hilarious but shocking story about a young preacher who went to hear an old and well-known preacher hoping to pick up a few pointers. The seasoned veteran, in his sermon, made an incredible statement. He said, “Some of the most meaningful moments of my life were spent in the arms of another man’s wife.”

Of course, the congregation was shocked … and spellbound. Everyone including the novice preacher was sitting on the edge of their pews. The speaker repeated it, a little more emphatically, just to make sure everybody got it. Then he went on to eloquently explain that the woman he was talking about was his father’s wife; in other words, his mother.

“That is really an attention-getter, if I have ever heard one,” the young man thought. “That was really great. I’m going to use that in my sermon.”

A few weeks later, he was preaching and he mimicked what he had heard earlier. “Some of the most meaningful moments of my life were spent in the arms of another man’s wife” he blurted.

It worked! The young man wasn’t used to having the kind of attention from his congregation that he was now witnessing.

So, as the older pastor had done, he restated it … this time with a little more gusto. But the moment he uttered the statement the second time, his mind went blank. He stumbled around trying to remember what to say next.

To his own perplexity and the horror of the congregation, all he could come up with was, “For the life of me, I can’t remember whose wife she was!”

The simple truth is that Christians are not called to copy people, but to follow Jesus. Peter wrote, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that we might follow in his steps.”

The amazing result is that as we follow Him “… we become God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10)

How refreshing. Imitating the Saviour results in our emulating His nature. “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40)

Pastor Ross Helgeton is senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church.

— FAITH & REFLECTION