“…and you yourselves became imitators of us and of the Lord when, in spite of severe persecution, you welcomed the message with joy from the Holy Spirit. As a result, you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.”
1 Thessalonians 1:6-7
Are You for Real?
“Real recognize real” is a pretty common phrase uses to describe a person’s ability to recognize another person’s authenticity. It’s used in the context of comradery, in spotting out originality and dependability. We never want to be caught in the throes of something that isn’t genuine.
This is true in friendships and in business for sure. But it’s also true in baking…and in discipleship!
Cost, Depth, and Flavor
Walk into any grocery store’s baking aisle, and you will see two types of vanilla flavoring: extract or imitation. You will also notice the price difference. But ask any experienced baker, and they will tell you to spring for the real thing rather than the cheap imitation. An inexperienced consumer of baked goods can’t tell the difference, but real ones know. (They recognize real, after all!)
The thing about the real thing is that it’s costly, but it’s got the depth of flavor that’s needed to achieve the end result. And when it comes to true, genuine discipleship and the act of making real, bona fide followers of Christ, the same idea rings true. The difference, however, is that the apostle Paul doesn’t chide imitators of Himself and other leaders of the church; he recognizes that within the body of Christ and the call to discipleship, the imitation is the real thing.
Not a Cheap Imitation
He writes to the church of the Thessalonians that their perseverance and consequential joy amidst suffering were an example to the rest of the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. Can you imagine that? To have the great missionary Paul commend your willingness to follow his footsteps before you in the faith?
To him, this imitation was the real thing. It wasn’t a cheap knock-off weighed down by false teachings or sickly sweet nothings. It was genuine and persistent, and it was something to be echoed in the surrounding churches beyond their own—even in the midst of suffering. So, what’s your example in the faith? Are the imitation and the real thing? Are you an example for others to follow in the faith?
Think about what your spiritual life looks like in this season. Are you truly engaged in meaningful pursuit of the Lord through active discipleship? Or does it look a little more like the cheap imitation of it? What has following Jesus cost you? Take a moment to reflect on the examples you’re following, as well as others who are following you. It’s never too late to spring for the real deal!