There is a saying, “Imitation is the highest form of flattery.” The phrase is meant to be a compliment to the person about whom it is said. If someone wants to imitate us, it is because they admire and respect us. We do have an influence on each other. If we see behaviors we like in someone, we want to act in the same way. If we observe a person’s negative behaviors, we want to avoid those behaviors and even those people. Put another way, we want to follow the example of some people and keep our distance from others.
In the Gospel, the disciples were scolding people for bringing their little children to Jesus, perhaps thinking they were bothering him. In response Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them (Mark 10:2-16).” Rather than following the example of the disciples who were trying to keep the children from Jesus, we are to do all we can to bring children and all people to him. The best way to do that is by the good example of our own lives.
Sometimes we under estimate the influence our lives have. We may think no one is really paying much attention to how we live. The truth is, our presence influences others, for better or for worse. Just think about the people who have influenced our lives and we know how true this is. There are people who have inspired us by the good example of their lives. Others have discouraged and even disheartened us by the bad example of theirs.
Being good examples is especially important these days because of opposing influences all around us. Social media, the internet, TV and movies with their often-questionable content get untold hours of attention by children, young people and adults. The sometimes troubling events in our Church create understandable upset and disillusionment. A polarized political climate and conflicts around the world make it difficult to live with a positive attitude and hopeful disposition.
Even so, we have a power greater than all these influences. It is the profound love of Jesus who embraces us as he did the little children. Embraced by that love, it is not too late for our good examples to make a difference.
Together in faith,
Very Rev. Christopher Smith, Rector