Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Apr 12 2020 - 1 Corinthians 10:14-11:1 – Who and what is shaping your life?

For the second time in this letter, Paul tells the Christians at Corinth to imitate him. On this second occasion he writes, “Be imitators of me, even as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1, cf. 4:16).

Paul is exhorting self-centred Christians to live not to please themselves but in a manner that will commend themselves and the gospel to others, and so win others to Christ. Paul had shown what such a life is like when he lived and ministered among the Corinthians. But Paul is quick to remind them that he was only following the example of another, namely of his Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Jesus lived and died for the sake of others, to reconcile them to God. The risen Jesus lives now to bring people to God. Paul was a follower of Christ, concerned that his life should be shaped by the mind of Christ, “not seeking my own benefit but the benefit of all manner of people I meet, that they might be saved” (10:33). This was the purpose for which Paul lived – and for which he eventually died. “Be imitators of me,” says Paul, “even as I am of Christ.”

We were made to be imitators. From the moment when we first began to take any notice of our surroundings we learnt to imitate others. We learnt speech by imitation. Our patterns of behaviour, our hopes and fears, were all learnt by imitation. It could not be any other way; it’s the way we were created.

But in this way we learn bad patterns of behaviour as well as good. In this way too, we can become enslaved to patterns of behaviour which are destructive of ourselves or of others.

Christ came to set us free. He comes to provide us with a supreme example of a life lived to please God and to bring blessing to others. But his example alone would condemn us rather than help us. By his death and resurrection, Jesus breaks the power of the sin which has spoilt our life, and by his outpoured Spirit he provides us with the power to live a new life. This is the good news of the gospel.

But Paul’s words to the Christians at Corinth remind us that the Christ shaped life is not automatic; it does not grow without deliberate cultivation. I find Paul’s words an uncomfortable challenge. I recognise that it’s all too easy for my behaviour to be shaped by others around me. Who is shaping whom? I need my life to be shaped by Christ and for my Christ-shaped life to have a shaping influence upon others.

As those who are born imitators, we need also to be encouraging one another. “Be imitators of me,” says Paul. Christians need to play a key role in shaping one another’s lives under Christ so that together we are strengthened in following him and in having a positive influence on the world around us. We not only belong to Christ, we have been intimately connected to one another, “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf” (10:16-17). We need to give ourselves to the encouragement, strengthening and growth of one another, just as Christ gave himself for us.

What is shaping your life? More to the point, who and what is shaping my life and how am I shaping the lives of those around me?

Lord, help me to follow you. Make me more like you. Enable me to encourage others to follow you, grow in you and to have a transforming influence upon the lives of others.

Peter Misselbrook