One of my recent Bible acquisitions claims to have an “imitation leather” cover. Well, I guess that’s right, as far as it goes. It’s certainly not real leather. But honestly, if I had not seen the words on the box, it never would have occurred to me that it might be leather. It may as well have called itself imitation rubber, or imitation wool, or imitation cardboard.
A proper imitation, it seems to me, must be at least an effort at being a duplication of the original. When Paul writes, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1), the necessary implication is that Paul is doing a reasonably good job of imitating Christ — otherwise, what would be the point of imitating him?
But it is important to identify the imitation as exactly that — particularly when it is a good or even outstanding imitation. There are fake leathers out there that will stand up to pretty intense scrutiny for a year or two. In time, though, the true nature of the thing inevitably reveals itself. (Check out the patch job I have done on the arms of my “leather” office chair sometime if you want an example.
So in a nutshell, be the best imitation of Jesus you possibly can be — both for your own sake and for the sake of others who might be drawn to the light through your influence (Matthew 5:16). But don’t get a big head about it. If you are the best imitation in the world, that’s all you are. And besides that, you are all teed up for a “first will be last” moment, to borrow from Matthew 19:30. Better to acknowledge and embrace your shortcomings than to have them revealed in embarrassing fashion.