Gullible and naïve almost always have negative vibes. Whereas impressionable can have both meanings. When I was a pre-teenager, our family took a trip to northwest Arkansas to visit relatives. My cousin, Carl, was about 5 years older than I, but let me hang out with him for a whole week. He was a real risk-taker and had a neat Ford coupe in which he took me to movies and other new places. We roamed the hills, jumped off a cliff into the muddy creek water, snuck into an empty plantation house, among the many other adventures I had never even imagined.

Needless to say, at my impressionable age I was almost totally intrigued and willing to imitate his example. I never thought about the negatives until later. I came very close to stepping on a poisonous copperhead snake, I caught a bad infection from the muddy creek water and we had to walk 5 miles in the dark along a busy highway because Carl had forgotten that the bus didn’t run that late.

There were several risk-takers among the 1st Century Christians, as well as many impressionable new converts. When they heard of the dangerous exploits of Paul, Barnabas and Silas, they were no doubt impressed and ready to emulate them. In fact, Paul, the first and worst enemy of Christ’s church (1 Cor 15:9), urged the Corinthian brethren to imitate him (1 Cor 4:16). But only to the extent that he imitated
Christ Jesus. It might have been possible to overlook the dangers that he faced (2 Cor 11:23-28), and forget the instructions from Christ that he taught (1 Cor 4:17-18) because Paul was such a heroic figure. The Galatians were even “…biting and devouring each other…”(Gal 5:15). Paul, through inspiration of the Holy Spirit gave them the cure for that in verse 14 (live by the Spirit) and verse 16 (love your neighbor).

There are still many fine Christians today that merit admiration and imitation. Even then, we need to understand that we are impressionable and realize that only Jesus Christ deserves total worship and obedience.

—Jim Bailey