One of the great pleasures of life is talking to a baby and trying to get it to repeat what you are saying. When a mother or father hears their baby babble “Momma” or “Dada,” their hearts thrill with joy.
Mirror neurons are responsible for a baby’s imitative drive. Mirror neurons are neurons that fire when we act and that fire when we observe others doing the same action. When mirror neurons fire, they make us feel good. Because we have mirror neurons, we are by definition imitative beings.
Unfortunately, since the sin of Adam, the patterns we have to imitate are the fallen patterns of the world (Romans 5:12–21). Sin has taken advantage of our imitative nature by enslaving us to these fallen patterns, which end in death (Romans 6:16).
The coming of Christ has liberated us from our slavish devotion to sin and has given us a new model to imitate and a new pattern to follow. According to Paul, baptized believers obey from the heart “that form of doctrine to which you were delivered” (Romans 6:17). The phrase “form of doctrine” can sound a bit sterile, but it is anything but sterile. The word translated “doctrine” just means teaching. The Greek word transliterated is tupos. It is translated “pattern” in Hebrews 8:5 (NKJV). The original Greek means something like a pattern, mold, or model. As Christians, we obey from the heart the pattern, mold, or model of teaching. What is the pattern, mold, or model of Christian teaching? A better question might be, who is the mold or model of Christian teaching? Who is the pattern of Christianity? It is none other than Jesus Himself. As Christians who are loved by God and saved by the generous self-sacrifice He offered on our behalf (Romans 5:6–9), our response is heartfelt obedience to Jesus—the ultimate model of behavior (Romans 6:17).
There is no absolute freedom from slavery. We can be slavishly devoted to sin, or we can be slaves of God and righteousness (Romans 6:18, 22). We can be devoted to sin, or we can be devoted to obeying the pattern of teaching—Jesus Christ. Our mirror neurons can either imitate the disobedience of Adam or the obedience of Jesus. Either way, according to Romans, we are slaves. But our Master is so good that He was willing to become a slave to save us (Philippians 2:6–11); His yoke is easy, and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). Even though we’ve earned death by our sin, our Master gives us the free gift of everlasting life when we put our faith in Him (Romans 6:23).