[forthright] Profitable Imitation

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From: "Forthright Magazine" <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Sat, 28 Apr 2007 18:17:33 -0300
Forthright Magazine
http://www.forthright.net
Straight to the Cross


COLUMN: Field Notes

Profitable Imitation
by Michael E. Brooks

   "Imitate me, just as I also imitate
   Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Khulna Bible College has a beautiful Myna bird
named Tutu who has a pretty good vocabulary of
Bengali words and common sounds. He can mimic the
telephone on the wall above him, or any of several
mobile phone ring tones that he hears frequently.
He answers the phone ("Hello"), calls for rice
("Bhat"), and says he wants to eat ("Kabbo"). He
even makes the sound of an ambulance’s siren. But
there is one thing Tutu cannot do. He cannot tell
when it is appropriate to say a particular word or
make a certain sound. He does not understand what
he is saying. He is merely imitating.

Unfortunately some people are like Tutu. They copy
the behavior of others, whether they really
understand what they are doing or not. An old
story is told of a young housewife, baking her
first Christmas ham. She prepared it for the oven,
cutting the shank bone as she did so. Her husband
seeing this asked, "Why did you cut the ham into
two pieces?" "I don’t know" was her reply. "This
is the way my mother always cooks a ham." Her
husband suggested calling her mother and asking
why it was done. The mother answered the same way
her daughter had, "That is the way my mother
always cooks a ham". So the young husband said,
"Let's call Grandma." They did and finally got the
answer: "My pan was too small for the whole ham,
so I had to cut it in two."

Frequently there are good practical reasons
underlying a custom or practice. Things are done
because it makes sense to do it that way, or
because it is the only feasible course of action.
But circumstances and conditions change. There is
no intrinsic value in cutting a ham in two
sections to bake it, but if one's pan is small, it
is fine to do it that way. But imitating Grandma
without knowledge of why a thing was done leads to
unnecessary effort at best.

Some imitation is far worse. I have long observed
that in developing countries the most copied and
desired features of Western technology and culture
are often the least desirable. Immoral
entertainment, indecent dress, greed, and
materialism are rapidly increasing, whereas other
more beneficial features are ignored. Imitation of
good examples is to be desired. Imitation of
corruption and wickedness is destructive.

A bird can copy what he sees and hears, but he
cannot distinguish between the useful and the
harmful. Our mimicry must be more selective. Paul
teaches us to imitate him, as and only as, he
imitates Christ. Observe what is good and useful
(Philipians 4:8) and do those things. Our actions
should reflect conscious decisions based on
understanding of why a thing is good, and
appropriation of the good conduct witnessed in
others.

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