“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7
You can Google anything. When I was asked to write a devotion on this Scripture, the saying, “Monkey see, monkey do” came to my mind. The origin of this saying did not mean as much to me as the meaning: the act of imitation, usually with limited knowledge or concern for the consequences. I found it interesting. Have you ever been mortified by something your child did or said; only to realize it was something they learned from you? I used to use the word “crap” all the time (still trying to break the habit). My sister would tell me that was not a good word and I would dismiss her because it was nothing compared to what others were saying. Then I heard my son say it. Ouch! Years ago, my husband and I went to our son’s IEP. The meeting started as usual with orientation questions (i.e. address, phone number). Then they asked who was president. Carter responded with the correct name followed by, “But my dad says…” I have never seen my husband move that quickly. Carter’s mouth was immediately covered for fear of what would come. Our kids learn good and bad from us. Our Scripture reminded me that people learn who Jesus is and what it means to live for Him from us!
In 1 Thessalonians chapter 1, Paul thanks the Thessalonians for the godly example they are setting. He points out that they have done this by becoming “imitators of us and of the Lord.” I never noticed “us.” Paul is saying that the believers were imitating him, Silvanus, and Timothy and therefore were imitators of Jesus. These believers learned to live for Christ by watching their life. I was left with a very sobering thought, “What people know about Jesus comes from my flawed example.”
This prompted some self-examination. People see that I attend gatherings at church, weekly Bible studies, and serving opportunities, but what about my personal time? Do I spend the first minutes of my day with Him; studying His Word, talking with Him, and then spend my day seeking opportunities to glorify Him and build His kingdom? Does my husband know that he comes second only to God, even before our children because that is what the Bible says (Ephesians 5:22,25,31) or because that is how I live? Do my children show their father respect because they are told to or because of my behavior (Ephesians 5:33)? Does my family see a woman with a servant’s heart who does all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) or a woman who complains of feeling unappreciated? The list goes on and on.
What does your list look like? Husband, maybe you need to ask yourself, “Do I love my wife ‘as Christ loved the church’ (Ephesians 5:25)? Father, are your children experiencing the unconditional love (Romans 5:8) and necessary discipline (Hebrews 12:7) you receive from your Heavenly Father? Believer, do others see your complete dependence on the Lord (Psalm 62) regardless of your circumstances? Do others receive from you the same grace and forgiveness you have received at the cross?” Your list goes on and on, too.
When we discuss reaching others for Christ, we are told to be ready to give the reason for our hope (1 Peter 3:15) and to do it with gentleness and respect. We are strongly encouraged to study Scripture and be able to share with others how they can receive complete forgiveness and spend eternity in Heaven because of Christ’s work on the cross. When we continue to read 1 Thessalonians 1:7-9, we are reminded that our commitment to living for the Lord is an important part of people coming to know Christ. Paul tells the Thessalonians that because “you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (verse 9) people all over Macedonia and Achaea came to know Christ.
In closing, remember the meaning of “Monkey see, Monkey do.” As children, we learned with limited knowledge or concern for the consequences. Believer, the lost are watching us. They are learning about who Jesus is and how to live for Him from us with little knowledge and without concern for the consequences. They do not know what we know: our choices have eternal consequences. They determine eternal life or eternal death.
I am reminded of another old saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” Believer, a changed life changes lives.
One final question: What if you are the only Bible they ever read?