Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2 NLT)
This is a letter Paul the Apostle wrote to the believers in Ephesus. He describes these believers as “God's holy people” and “faithful followers of Christ” (Ephesians 1:11). This letter is packed with words of encouragement and challenge. Paul reminds them in Ephesians 5 they are God's dear children and should live in such a way to reflect their Heavenly Father. Later in the chapter, Paul challenges them to live as “children of light.”
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (Ephesians 5:8 NIV)
What does it mean to imitate? Imitate means “to follow or endeavor to follow as a model or example.” (Dictionary.com) This imitation requires study of the One we intend to model. When you read and study scripture, ask yourself how the passage reflects the character of God. What does the Bible reveal about God? Read the Gospels and see the life of Jesus. He paints a clear picture of the heart and passion of God. What did Jesus say to his disciples was the mark of being his follower? Love. Paul reminds the believers in Ephesus of this marker of love.
God is love. God's love for his creation is found throughout the Bible. His love is sacrificial. His love is a lay-down-his-life kind of love. His love is active and pursuing. This is how we are to imitate him.
There was a time when I thought I had the role of controlling people's lives. I didn't think of it that way. (I was oblivious to owning this role.) I thought that telling them what I thought was right and telling them a thousand different ways–if they didn't get it the first time–was good and right. I thought this was loving. While there are times to speak into people's lives, most of the time I had been doing it out of a compulsion to control rather than wait on God's leading me to express words of life. Had I focused on sacrificial love, and waited on His lead, Christ would have been reflected so much better. (Controlling is an easy rut for me especially when I feel stressed.)
Sacrificial love is patient. (I think of how patient God is with me. There are sin struggles that have taken me years to wrestle through–and some that I fall into still.) Oh, that I would be that kind of patient with others–especially in areas I don't struggle. Love like his is kind. (I get in a funk when life hits hard and doesn't go my way. I start going down the “life isn't fair” road pretty quickly. I forget God's kindness. I don't deserve the health I have. I don't deserve the four beautiful child I have. The life I have isn't perfect, but it is good. None of it was because I deserved it. I didn't have it “coming to me.” God has been kind to me.) May I be kind as He is kind.
Do you recognize patient and kind from anywhere in scripture? This is just a bit of a description of God's kind of love. (Find more in 1 Corinthians 13.) It's a love that goes deep. I have yet to find its depth and height and breadth.
Study. Imitate. Love.
Father, I want to be a great imitator of you. Help me to live a life of love, your kind of love. I need your help because I want to wield my power to control. I don't often think of focusing on controlling myself. Help me to be self-controlled so that I can be free to love. I need your love to fill me to overflowing. In Jesus name, amen.