Multiple instances we have answers to this from the Bible. Apostle Paul has covered this topic twice in 1st Corinthians – so the answer is clear and straightforward.
But first let us evaluate the need or tendency to imitate. We know various people around us at work, in our friends circles, in our families imitate celebrities, imitate film stars, social media influencers. All because what we see and hear influences our thinking.
Knowing and unknowingly, attributes become part of us. The words, actions, style and behaviour get imbibed.
Hence, it is so important that as parents, students, siblings we are responsible to act, speak and dress well.
Parents are foolish to expect kids to behave the way they instruct them to behave without living out life the way the very same way they instruct them. That is hypocritical. This used to be an aspect which boomeranged on me for a season in my life. But after a message in the church, I was circumspect about my behaviour and nature. By the grace of God, I totally stopped all the behaviour I did not want my kids to have.
In 1 Corinthians, chapter 4, Apostle Paul clearly instructs us to imitate him, and it explains further. He was sending Timothy, who will remind of Paul’s ways in Christ. Go ahead and read the portion. 14 I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. 15 For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you, imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church. Paul mentions this once again in chapter 11 verse 1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. Thus, we are asked to imitate Paul, in all aspects that Paul imitates Jesus Christ. Paul is very careful to omit the portion of his life and behaviour where he does not imitate Christ Jesus. So it’s important to know Jesus Christ better and better as we read the gospels.
While imitating our parents, or people in spiritual authority, our imitation of them does not ever become an excuse for us to imitate their human weakness. All of us, including our parents, have weakness. We love them, respect them as they are. Discovering or knowing any of their weakness at any time is not a reason to pause or stop respecting or loving them.
1 Peter 2:21 says: For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: The sufferings of Jesus Christ are also an example for us to follow.
Jesus esteemed others better than himself. Jesus looked into the interests of others. Jesus humbled himself, dined with sinners, became a bound servant obedient unto the point of death on the Cross being surrendered to the will of the Father. All this is given in Philippians 2:3-8 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
We ought to be kind-hearted and forgiving to others just as Jesus Christ showed us to be. We can read this in Ephesians 4:32 32 And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
Jesus loved the tax collectors, the Centurion who felt for his servant, the lady who was caught in adultery, the wedding party organisers whose wine got over in Cana wedding, the multitude who were attending his meetings, his disciples who had many failings, the Pharisees and Sadducees who could not see, the blind, the lepers, the lady with issue of blood, sinners, thief on the cross, the Samaritan lady with five husbands at the well. Yes, Jesus loved all and gave them an opportunity for transformation, for salvation. We can read this in John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
In the process of imitating Christ, individually examining our success and failures, we are in a process of steadily improving ourselves to becoming like Jesus Christ as mentioned in 2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
May the Holy Spirit guide us daily to make amends in our thinking and behaviour – with Jesus Christ being our standard.