“The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9 NKJV).
At the elephant breeding center near Chitwan National Park in Nepal, we were fortunate to see and photograph their latest arrival, a three-day-old baby female elephant. Though tiny (and seriously cute) she was already “all elephant” as the picture above demonstrates. Not only was she just like her mother in biological detail, she also mimicked the adult in posture, actions and other behavior. Our party was enthralled with her performance.
Mimicry is a key concept in conversion and Christian living. Believers in Ephesus were exhorted to “be imitators of God as dear children” (Ephesians 5:1). Paul encouraged the Corinthians to “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). As cited above, he commanded the Philippians to do as they had heard, seen and learned from him.
Peter showed how an unbelieving husband might be converted to Christ by the example of a faithful, submissive wife (1 Peter 3:1-2), even though he was resistant to the preached gospel. Note that such conversions occur when the husband “observes” his wife’s chaste conduct and reverent attitude.
Finally, John wrote, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life . . . that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us” (1 John 1:1, 3).
Christianity is a learned faith (Ephesians 4:20-21). It is not inherited from birth. It cannot be coerced or enticed materially. One is a Christian because he or she has heard the gospel, received it in faith and obeyed it (Romans 10:13-17; 6:17). Contrary to the teaching of some, one is not miraculously impressed by the Spirit of God so that salvation is imputed without or even against his own will. The believer is led by the Spirit (Romans 8:1-11) when the Word of God is heard, believed, and followed submissively (Matthew 7:21).
Like the baby elephant, a young Christian needs the example of mature and faithful followers of Jesus so that appropriate behavior may be learned. When each one contributes from his or her own abilities and resources, all will grow up to “the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13-15).
Our fellowship with other Christians is a partnership in the task of serving God and seeking eternal life. The young disciple seeks older patterns that enable him to grow in the right ways. Older, spiritually mature Christians should seek out the spiritually young or weak in order to mentor them. All is to the glory of God and the benefit of his Church (Ephesians 4:16).