” . . . imitate what is good.”

“My dear friend, do not imitate what is bad, but imitate what is good. Whoever does good belongs to God; whoever does what is bad has not seen God.” (III John 1:11)

There is an old expression dating back as early as the 18th century in one form or another that says, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”  I was walking in the cemetery Easter afternoon and noticed the thousands of plastic and silk flowers decorating the graves on the hillsides.  I was in a perpetual care cemetery with all flat markers, so the flowers looked like they were jutting up from the soil.  However, not one of the floral imitations comes even close to the magnificent display of God’s creative genius offered by these ornamental cherry blossoms against a radiantly blue sky right outside our church office door this week.

Imitation has a strange sort of history.  As a young boy I remember trying to imitate my favorite heroes, usually cowboys, because they had guns and cap guns were the real deal!  Today I watch young children imitate their favorite characters, everything from princesses to ninjas and a whole lot in between.  Later in my life, as I was working my way through school I heard the phrase, “Copy-cat, Copy-cat,” bandied about from time to time.  Suddenly imitation had a negative meaning and one had to be careful not to copy the likes or looks of another.  Somewhere around middle school the tide seemed to shift again and it became important in the quest of self-identity to figure out how to belong and who or what to imitate.  “Uniforms” even developed (although we call them “styles”) to help with the belonging process.

Whether we want to consciously realize and acknowledge it or not, imitation is a big part of our adult lives.  Just for fun, take a look at the “uniform” you’re wearing today and ask yourself, “Hmmmm, which group does my uniform tell me I claim membership in?”  Even more importantly than what we wear is how we act and react within our environment.  Take a moment and consider how you relate with others.  What do your interactions tell you about who you imitate?

The writer of III John would have us know that what we imitate is an indicator of whether or not we have seen God.  In other words, our actions reveal whether we see God at work in our lives and choose to imitate God’s glorious love in Jesus, or whether we fail to see God and find someone or something else to imitate.  It’s not a matter or whether we imitate, but rather, who or what we imitate.  We make the choices about who or what we imitate either consciously or unconsciously every day of our lives.  Like God’s creation, divine love defies us to even come close to re-creating such perfection.  However, we’re called to imitate the love of God we see revealed in creation, the life of Jesus, and the workings of the Holy Spirit.  We need to carefully choose who we imitate.  I pray that God will always keep me awake and aware that I need to imitate Jesus.  How about you?

Blessings and Peace,


Pastor, Cross Lanes United Methodist Church

Cross Lanes, West Virginia

Help save lives! For more information on my book, “A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression,” visit

My other book, “Wednesday Wonderings: Spiritual Journaling Through a Lens” is available at and

Check out my video, “Teens Surviving the Storm”


~ by revgenelson on March 30, 2016.

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