I have a love/hate relationship with the game of dodgeball. On one hand, I loved the game as a kid because I was fairly good at catching the ball and throwing it at my opponents who were unable to do the same. Yet, I also hated the game because I took a couple of red bouncy balls off the head and didn't particularly like the headache that followed. (Yeah, this was back in the day before they used less-concussion-inducing foam balls. 🙄 )
If you've played the game, you understand the object: avoid getting hit with the ball. If you get hit, you are "out." So to avoid getting out, you either "dodge" the ball by jumping out of the way, or catch it, which causes the thrower to instead be "out."
But if you aren't going to catch the ball, what do you have to do to avoid it?
In the first two installments of this series, I've used an imaginary scenario that your grandmother is a very godly woman, so it would be tempting to simply copy her faith. While I believe God calls you to "live like Jesus lived," and not Grandma, I don't think avoiding your grandma is the best way to avoid a copycat faith.
Rather, I think avoiding copycat Christianity is a bit like avoiding a hurtling ball in the game of dodgeball...
As we've already seen in this series, many Christians unintentionally copy how others follow Jesus, rather than simply follow Jesus Himself. Knowing this can help you be alert to the natural tendency to copy the faith of Jesus-followers you respect. (Learn from them, but the goal isn't to become just like them.)
We read in Acts 17 that the Jesus-followers in Berea are praised for their readiness to weigh Paul's teaching against the known Scriptures. Yet, they were also still open to learning what God had for them. In other words, they anticipated learning, but they also anticipated the potential for heresy.
Likewise, when you open up a "Christian" book or prepare to listen to a podcasted sermon, don't blindly reject or adopt everything you learn. Rather, be a "Berean," anticipating what God might teach you, but also anticipate the potential to fall into copycat faith.
It's one thing to be alert to the draw of copycat Christianity and anticipate the places where you might be tempted to copy the faith of others, but you also need to continue in your commitment to follow Jesus first and foremost. If you let down your guard too often, you run the risk of merely being a mimic rather than a genuine Jesus-follower.
The best way to avoid copycat Christianity is to simply focus on following Jesus directly. One of the best ways to do this is to serve others. There is something about giving your FIST (finances, influence, skills, & time) to others that causes you to be more like Jesus than at any other time.
If you somehow realize you are only living out your faith in Christ as a poor copy of Grandma, then begin afresh today. Just as someone who gets knocked out of dodgeball can try again in the next game, God's grace allows you to start anew today. So ask God to help you be more like Jesus and not just an imitation of someone else's faith in Jesus.
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