If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then we are flatterers par excellance. We love to copy. We buy reproductions of famous paintings. We carry designer handbags (knockoffs of course) and impress our friends with our genuine (imitation) Rolex watches. We sport designer suits and shoes which we judicially purchased at an outlet store that specializes in seconds. We even buy genuine imitation vanilla flavoring.
Growing up, I had a brother who was one year older and six inches taller than me. If Paul played the piano or joined the band, then I wanted to play an instrument too. If he went out for the basketball team, I started dribbling a ball and shooting baskets.
When the San Francisco 49ers won the Super Bowl using the West Coast offense, the following year every NFL team (or so it seemed) ran the same offense. Nike built an empire on the slogan, “Be like Mike” (Michael Jordan). Now everyone wants to head for the pool to be like the new Mike (Michael Phelps). After one record-setting gold medal race, a Canadian broadcaster quipped, “Superman is now wearing Michael Phelps underwear.”
In the lead up to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, many commentators made an issue out of Phelps’ goal of surpassing Mark Spitz’ record of 7 gold medals in the 1972 Games in Munich. Phelps made one of the wiser and more profound statements when he said, “My goal is not to be the next Mark Spitz. My goal is to the first Michael Phelps.”
While we want to look, sound, dress, act, talk, and be like our heroes, our task, as Michael Phelps so wisely stated, is to be ourselves.
In 1 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul compared the church to a body. If our role is to be an eye, we shouldn’t listen in and try to be an ear. If we are the ear, we shouldn’t look around to see what others are doing and act like an eye. If we are the hands, we are to give hugs and clap and encourage, rather than walk around like the feet.
It has taken me a long time to learn this lesson. I don’t want to be like Paul (my brother). I don’t want to be like Mike (Jordan or Phelps). I don’t want to be like Kent, Todd, Jerry, Chuck, Bruce, or John (other preachers I have known or heard). I want to be like me, because that is who God has called me to be.