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"Monkey See... Monkey Do!"

by Susan Gurney  
5/04/2013 / Parenting


Children are great imitators. Little Johnny sees his revered Grandpa spit...and then Mom wonders just where her precious son learned that "awful" habit as Johnny repeatedly spits at his friends at preschool! Pete spends hours watching "superhero" cartoons every Saturday, and his non-violent Dad wonders why his son wants to pound on his friends. Pre-teen Jill spends hours with no adult supervision as she practically lives with her peers. Her always busy parents later wonder where they went wrong as Jill chooses the drugs, alcohol, and pre-marital sex that her peers and celebrities on T.V. have said or demonstrated are "OK".

Yes, children are great imitators! They not only imitate those who love and care for them, but also those in authority, those with more "power" than they have, and even those who are simply always around for them to watch and mimic. Is it no wonder that the children of adults struggling with various addictions or violent behaviors may grow up to have the same kinds of problems their parents had? Even those children who vow never to make the same mistakes as their parents often struggle with similar behaviors.

The adage, "Do what I say, don't do what I do", just doesn't cut it with kids now or at any previous time in history. No matter how much you don't want your children "to do what you do", the fact remains that your actions speak far louder than anything you can ever say. How can anyone--just by talking and not by modeling the appropriate behavior--realistically expect a child to avoid that which you as an adult have found next to impossible to change or stop yourself!? Add to this the fact that all of us--even the youngest children--have been created by God with the freedom of choice, may explain why even when we DO model correct behavior our children can sometimes fall into sinful behaviors. Only God's mercy brings hope to our seemingly hopeless task of raising our children to imitate Him.

Paul says in Ephesians 5:1, "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children." (NIV) Over and over the Bible tells us God is Holy, and also illustrates just what this means through both of the Testaments. When we take the step of becoming right with God by asking His forgiveness and accepting His Son, Jesus, as our Savior and Lord--then the next step is living a life that imitates God--becoming holy as He is Holy. We must treat Him as the perfect Father by being obedient children who always try to live His holiness and model that holy life to those around us.

Sounds impossible, doesn't it? But we can learn to live a holy life by reading the Bible, by praying and listening for God's answers, and by attending church so we can receive spiritual instruction and observe other children of God modeling the holy behaviors they are learning to live. No, we cannot become "perfect" or "holy" in our own strength...nor can we ever truly attain God's perfect holiness in this world. But, by asking for daily help and strength from God's Holy Spirit, we can remain faithful to Him by leaving our old sinful ways behind forever. God only asks us to DAILY surrender ourselves to Him, and thereby move toward continuous spiritual growth through His strength and wisdom.

Don't imitate the Father of Deceit--the Devil! He wants you to keep on doing all those things that Jesus had to die for. He wants you to keep on sinning. Don't give him the satisfaction! You are God's child! Strive to do only those things that will please God, your Holy Heavenly Father. Imitate God, and model a holy life that you will rejoice to have your children follow!

What does God's Word, the Bible, say about this?

Proverbs 20:11 and 22:6 "Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right." "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." NIV

Ephesians 5:1, 15-16 "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children. Be very careful, then, how you live, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." NIV

I Thessalonians 4:7 "For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life." NIV

2 Timothy 1:5, 13-14 "I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. What you (Timothy) heard from me (Paul), keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you--guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us." NIV

I Peter 1:14-15 "As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do" NIV

Now read the following Bible passages in your favorite version of the Bible:

Proverbs 20:11 and 22:6
Ephesians 4:25 5:21
Colossians 3:1-17
I Thessalonians 3:6 4:12
2 Timothy 1:3-14
I Peter 1:13-16 and 3:8-12
Jude 17-23

Susan Gurney writes devotionals, poetry, short stories, memoirs, and nonfiction on family history, faith and nature. She has experience writing/editing church and family newsletters. Find Susan at http://ssimonsgurney.christianblogsites.com/blog/ Copyright 2013 Susan Simons Gurney

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