A Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church.Find another day here.
Monday July 27, 2020
3 John 11-12
Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. 12 Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true.
At the Kish home, as we have spent much more time at home these last several months, one of our new guilty-pleasures is watching television programming showcasing the cuisine and culture of places in the world that we will most likely never have the opportunity to visit ourselves. One of the more fascinating shows transported us from our couch in Northern Alabama to Vietnam, specifically Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon. Now, due to having spent quite a bit of time in the Dominican Republic, I am accustomed to seeing men, primarily older men but sometimes younger ones as well, spending a surprisingly large amount of time every day huddled together on the side of the road or under small public pavilions playing heated games of dominoes and enjoying beverages. At least according to the show we were watching, the older men in Saigon have a very similar desire to spend lots of time together out in public places, but at least some of them have a very different pastime, revolving entirely around socializing their pet songbirds. Apparently, songbirds have a unique, but relatively limited, catalog of songs, which they whistle-sing over and over and over. However, when songbirds spend time around other songbirds, they learn new songs through exposure and imitation. The men sit around for hours drinking coffee and shooting the breeze surrounded by their birdcages hanging from the thin metal canopies above them, and when they return home, the birds have delightful new songs to sing.
Of course, imitation is not only for the birds; it has always been one of the most powerful and effective teaching tools. For many of the most well-respected and finest professions in the world, the only appropriate way to learn the trade is not found in a classroom, but through observation and imitation of a true master craftsman. We naturally imitate the people and things that we spend the most time with, both the good and the bad. If you spend any significant time around me, you may notice that I have a tendency of quoting an embarrassingly number of lines from my favorite television shows in our conversations due to my tendency to watch and rewatch the same shows over and over and over.
As John begins to close his brief letter to Gaius, he encourages him to be careful of who and what he chooses to imitate. Spend your time surrounded by and focused only on the things of the world, and your words and patterns will inevitably show it. Spend your time surrounded by and focused on the things of God, and your words and patterns will show that too. It is important to remember that this is not a directive or an excuse, as some have misunderstood it to mean, for Christians to attempt to remove themselves completely from the world. As Scripture tells us, not only is it literally impossible to cut ourselves off from exposure to the unbelieving world around us, but to do so is actually antithetical to the commands of Jesus to go and tell the world about God’s incredible gift of grace, forgiveness, and life through Him. After all, how will the world know about Jesus if no one tells them?
Instead of total isolation, what we are to be mindful of are the things and people that we allow closest to our hearts. We read in Acts that the early church was always together, it was their daily habit to share meals together, pray together, take care of each other’s needs, and encourage one another with the Scriptures and singing Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. They didn’t live their life in seclusion or in hiding, but out in the open, in the public eye. The world watched in awe and wonder as neighbors and family members and fishermen and tax collectors and prostitutes and even self-righteous priests were totally transformed and united together in the imitation of Jesus. May we, like them, spur each other on in love and good works as we imitate the perfect example provided to us by our perfect Savior, and the new songs that we sing bring a smile to His face.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, our entire lives are laid before you like an open book. It is terrifying and comforting to know that You know all of our thoughts, motives, and habits. We confess that we have imitated many of the patterns of the world at the expense of loving and imitating You. Forgive us for pursuing our immediate personal pleasures at the expense of Your perfect plan for our lives. Empower us to live out-loud following the pattern that You have set for us, that the world may see You through our imitations, however imperfect we may be. In Your gracious name we pray, Amen.