I know a guy who has a brother who is an Elvis Impersonator. (Although he tells me that they prefer to be called “tribute artists.”) Andrew and his brother ‘Elvis’ were once at an IHOP at 2:00 in the morning. They went to pay their bill, and the cashier said, “I like what you’ve done with your hair,” fishing to find out more from this Elvis look-a-like standing in front of her.
As a tribute artist, brother Elvis enters a number of Elvis competitions. At one of them, all of the “Elvi” (that’s the plural of Elvis, isn’t it?) are sitting backstage. They are playing cards, talking, hanging out, waiting for their moment on stage. As they wait, one of the Elvi lights up a cigarette.
What are you doing? the others ask.
I’m smoking a cigarette, he says.
Elvis doesn’t smoke, they reply.
My friend’s brother has placed fifth in an Elvis contest in Vegas. In another competition, he was chosen as having the #1 Elvis voice. Alas, the voice is not all there is to Elvis. My friend told me that his brother still needed to work on his Elvis dance moves.
What does this all have to do with you and me? Well, if you are thinking about working on your Elvis act, I can get you in touch with one. But even more, it raises some thoughts about life and faith.
For one: Elvis tribute artists are serious about replicating the life of Elvis in their lives. Do you suppose that means that they eat like him? While those of us who follow Jesus don’t have to eat or dress like him, we do strive to be like him. At the church where I serve, we say it like this: living and loving like Jesus. And in a world where all kinds of people are committed to follow all kinds of other people, there is only one person we can follow who has embraced all of life, completely and perfectly. And if I can learn from one person, it’s not going to be Elvis.
A second thought: it’s not enough for a tribute artist to simply talk like Elvis. He has to act like him, sound like him, dance like him. In other words, it isn’t enough to simply have Elvis hair; you’ve got to have the whole package.
There are parts of the Jesus life I am more comfortable with. Some of what Jesus did I can replicate more easily; others, not so much. But following Jesus isn’t about one aspect of my life; it’s about every aspect of my life. Following Jesus is about taking on his character, his way of life, in every situation. Perhaps the best way to describe this is found in the fruit of the Spirit. In short, it reminds us that having the Spirit of Jesus IN us means that the life of Jesus pours OUT of us.
I don’t think I’d want to try to impersonate Elvis. For starters, I just couldn’t look like him. Instead, I want to spend a lifetime learning how to live, and love, like Jesus. I’ll make a lot of mistakes along the way — if my past is any indication. And there will always be questions and struggles. But when my life is ending, and I am taking my final breaths, I want to be able to say: my life, though imperfectly, has been a tribute to the only person worth following.