Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. (NIV)
We sometimes hear of sporting identities being urged to be good role models for others. Parents and other authority figures aspire to set good examples to others. So it is no surprise that the Apostle Paul sees himself as a bit of a role model. As someone who teaches Christian truth, he is concerned to be living it out.
Some of us would be very hesitant about urging others to imitate us. We are well aware of our own shortcomings and might be very worried if others saw us as role models. It is here that we need to look at things from a different perspective.
In the same passage, Paul describes himself as a work in progress. He is not perfect. He is on the way to maturity but hasn’t arrived at it. So he is not imagining himself to be a perfect example of Christian living. It seems we can set a good example without being perfect.
We are to be models of growth rather than perfection. We seek to imitate those who are on the way, not those who reckon they have arrived. In order to set a good example, I just need to be on the journey. I don’t need to have reached the finishing line.