9 For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. 10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.
14 I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. 15 Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church. 1 Corinthians 4:9-17
Paul continued to rebuke some of his brothers and sisters in Christ because of their haughtiness. But in the end, Paul commends them to imitate him. I think it takes a lot of guts for any Christian to say that because it comes with a heavy responsibility, namely, to live up to what we know to be the truth. Paul was confident he could do that because the Holy Spirit was in him guiding and mentoring him.
We can have that same confidence too. In fact, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have confidence. God knows our heart. He knows our failings and successes. Paul didn’t lord his authority over people. He didn’t demand them to imitate him. We can learn a lot from these verses because it shows the heart of a man who loved God and wanted others to do the same.