CHILDREN are great imitators. They try to be like their parents, older siblings, or favored friends. Imitation, it has been said, is the sincerest form of flattery. But as individuals mature, they begin to develop their own individualities. In this process, they may adopt other models, sometimes ones that can be destructive -- ones that harm and confuse.
How blessed are Christians to have a model that is nothing less than the Christ -- the ideal man, or Son of God, so perfectly presented by Jesus. But this model is more than a person; it is the saving Truth to which Jesus bore witness. It is characterized by the unfailing love he expressed, the infinite power he demonstrated.
Clearly, to dote on someone, to idolize a person, or to think that some other individual is the source of all good makes one vulnerable to disappointment and loss. It also breaks the First Commandment1 because it puts some person in God's stead.
While we really must value and appreciate and cherish every bit of goodness expressed by everyone -- seeing it as evidence of the good that is God -- we shouldn't confuse the windowpane with the sun that's shining through.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, saw the great necessity of learning to worship God instead of personality. She writes, ``There was never a religion or philosophy lost to the centuries except by sinking its divine Principle in personality.''2
History -- and religious history in particular -- seems strewn with fallen idols. No wonder mankind seems generally to have taken as the parent of humanity the fallen Adam as depicted in the second account of creation in Genesis. But Christ Jesus made plain the inseparable relationship of man to the one Father, God. And man made in the likeness of God, of Spirit -- governed and animated by the one Spirit, or Mind -- isn't really capable of erring or falling.
Only if one were to think of himself as personally able, personally eminent, personally good, rather than the spiritual image of God, who is the source of all good, would one be a target or fall a victim to personal idolatry. Humility, then, is the needed defense. It impels in us an acknowledgment of no selfhood separate from the Father, of no intelligence or will or ability separate from the one Mind.
The ``pattern shewed to thee in the mount''3 points to the ideal man, obedient in all things, holy even as his Father in heaven is holy. This is the pattern that found its perfect fulfillment in Christ Jesus. Our need is to express that Christliness. By doing so, we'll be kept from making idols, from setting wrong goals, having wrong models, seeking wrong things, or from substituting some person for God.
How easy it is to destroy or distort a relationship by such a false personal dependence. I've nearly done that on several occasions -- learning only slowly and painfully that I can't simply look to another person for what God alone can give.
It's plain, isn't it, that we will always head in the direction of our ideal? How essential, then, that the ideal be right -- the perfect model of God's creating -- rather than a human personality. How important that we entertain in thought the type of manhood in Christ that alone can remedy all misconceptions of man as weak, disobedient, and susceptible to wrong influence.
Sin or imperfection is never original -- never the primal state of anyone. Only perfection is real. And because that is the genuine status of man in God's spiritual image, it's what we all must ultimately prove.
Mrs. Eddy writes: ``And how is man, seen through the lens of Spirit, enlarged, and how counterpoised his origin from dust, and how he presses to his original, never severed from Spirit!'' She continues further on: ``The divine law gives to man health and life everlasting -- gives a soul to Soul, a present harmony wherein the good man's heart takes hold on heaven, and whose feet can never be moved.''4
How wonderful that, through Christ, we can take hold on heaven! We can discern the real man's spiritual and sinless state and then press daily toward a fuller demonstration of this Christ ideal.
1See Exodus 20:3. 2The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 117. 3Hebrews 8:5. 4Miscellany, p. 129.
You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. John 8:12