After Bradley Wiggins won the 2012 Tour de France, the Tour website carried the article, “Wiggins, the pursuit of perfection”, and the Sun allowed its readers to imitate Brad with gold sideburns, in anticipation of how he might fare in the Olympics! According to the Guardian, Britons spent over £21 million pounds in bike shops the week after his win. Whatever way you look at it, Brad had a big impact.
People want to be like their heroes, though I doubt that many would be willing to put in the gruelling training that makes for a champion. And you might have to have had a few (too many) beers to be persuaded to wear the Sun’s free gift. The copycat option is not an easy one – either for the copier or the cat!
Lest you think that this is a new phenomenon, come with me to northern Greece in the first century and check out what the apostle Paul was up to there.
He has been living in Thessalonica, but has now moved on to another base and writes a letter to the followers of Jesus whom he has left behind. Here’s part of what he says:
“You paid careful attention to the way we lived among you, and determined to live that way yourselves. In imitating us, you imitated the Master. Although great trouble accompanied the Word, you were able to take great joy from the Holy Spirit!—taking the trouble with the joy, the joy with the trouble.
Do you know that all over the provinces of both Macedonia and Achaia believers look up to you? The word has gotten around. Your lives are echoing the Master’s Word, not only in the provinces but all over the place. The news of your faith in God is out. We don’t even have to say anything any more—you’re the message!” (1 Thessalonians 1:5ff)
How do these new followers know how to live? They copy their teacher, Paul.
How did Paul know how to live? He copied the Master, Jesus.
And now other believers are copying the Thessalonians… all in the pursuit of living in a “way that pleases God.” (1 Thessalonians 4:1) And key to living that way is that they have come to know God for themselves (1 Thessalonians 4:5).
Following Jesus is a whole life deal. It’s as all-consuming as the toughest Tour or Olympic training schedule. It’s not a quick fix – let’s stick on the sideburns and have fun for a night – it’s the all or nothing commitment that has to be renewed every day (1 Thessalonians 4:1). The great news is that we have role models who have gone before us; the scary part is that we are role models for those who are new in their faith. So let’s not spend money in the bike shop but never take up cycling.
“So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.”