“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)
The game Simon Says is a game we play as children. But it is a game that we are never too old to play. The idea of following a leader is ingrained in our core being. We are hardwired to imitate from the womb.
Paul said, “Be imitators of God, as beloved children.” (Ephesians 5:1) What can we learn about imitating from children? Children are natural born imitators. They are masters at mimicking their parent’s. Often children imitate quickly, enthusiastically, and without embarrassment. God loves children, especially His children. Therefore, Paul is challenging adult followers, as a child adopted into the family of God, imitate your Father.
Let’s look at what God says to imitate and copy. This text is especially important for ministry partners, church members, and doing life with other Christians. Read Ephesians 5:1-2. Within these two verses I have three questions and two application:
Q1: What about God are we called to imitate?
We are called to “walk in love” (cf. 3:17-19). That’s our goal. What does it look like to walk in love? “When He had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek Me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples (you smell like Christ), if you have love for one another.” (John 13:31-35)
Q2: Who is my model for walking in love?
Jesus. Ephesians 5:2 is God’s list of values. #1 on God’s list of personal values is Jesus. He values Himself. Since He values Himself, He desires His children to walk like Him. The goal of imitating God is Christlike love, “walk in love as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us.”
Q3: How is the example of Christ a good enough motivation to walk in love?
I asked this question to a group of children this week. Without hesitation a six-year old Eden raised her hand and said with a sweet smile, “God’s love.” In the simple words of a child she was so on target. God’s love is enough. The love God gives His children is demonstrated in the sacrificial love of His Son. Christ’s love—true love—is built on sacrifice.1 He loves sinful people because He has a perfect, sacrificial, and unconditional love [cf. 4:32]. You and I have received that love as beloved children. Being receivers of His love is motivation enough to continue living in His love, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) Bind on your heart this truth: God is my Father and I am His child.
Since it is clear that God values His Son and desires His community of followers to walk like His Son, I have two applications for us as ministry partners:
1. Remember, the way we walk models the gospel.
How we deal with our difference speaks loudly (cf. Ephesians 4:25-32; 5:3-5). Sooner or later what you think about someone in your heart will come out of your mouth. It might be a small jab, behind the back slander, the silent treatment, or an outburst of rage, Usually it starts with a small personality or preferential issue that builds over time until it becomes big and ugly and out of control. Deal with it before before the rash spreads.
4 years I got the the worst case of poison ivy. The problem was, I did not know what it was at first. I thought it was a small bug bite. Within 48-hours a rash covered my body and I was a miserable itchy pussy mess. It was so bad that I wore pajama pants to work for 2-weeks. If I only caught it early, it would not have been bad at all. So it is with differences between ministry partners: deal with it quickly and biblical.
Last year Sarah and I were talking to long time missionaries to Brazil. They openly shared about a season of conflict on their team. They were part of a multicultural team and misunderstanding between one another were common. At one point the differences were so great they considered leaving the team, but were torn because they loved the people to whom they were ministering and did not want to abandon the work. Sadly, their differences were also known by the people. The testimony of the gospel was tarnished by the missionaries conflict.
The team decided rather than splitting ways to deal with the heart of the issue. They gathered together for a meeting. Outside the locals had also gathered around to see what would happen expecting tempers to flare and machetes to fly. The meeting began with prayer, then they read Scripture, confessed their sin to one another, had communion, and in tears embraced one another. The community watched dumbfounded.
Fast forward 20 years. The missionaries stayed the course and a church is planted. The church has hundreds of members and strong leadership. Time comes the new church an issue between its own leaders. A certain sect of the church is committed to leave the church. Tempers are flared and machetes are ready to fly. Until one leader stepped in and said, “Do you remember that evening 20-years ago, when we gathered around the missionaries meeting and we saw the pray, read Scripture, have communion, weep and reconcile?” So God desires to use our differences for unity and the glory of the gospel.
2. Let us encourage one another to value Christ supremely more than anything.
He is the treasure of our church. He is the One we adore. He is our goal for missions. It is His fame we desire to spread. Together let us make Him great. Even greater than ourselves and the things we value that are lesser than Him. He is supreme. He is the value we hold high.