This month, we will be considering Paul’s words to the Ephesians, starting in chapter 5. This chapter begins, “Therefore, be imitators of God …” I have been thinking about that. Imitating, or mimicking, is not an American virtue. Take “imitation” products for example. The idea of some product being an “imitation” means that it is not the real thing; it is fake or cheaply made. This is largely an accurate assessment – imitation crabmeat has no crab in it at all, just some starch and pulverized white fish .… yummy. If we move from food to consider music or art, to imitate someone’s work is to admit you are less skilled, talented, etc… and to open yourself up to the accusation of not being original enough in your work. And what parent wants their child to imitate what everyone else is doing? Remember the old school parenting phrase, “If [fill in name here] jumped off a bridge / cliff, would you jump too?”
We live in a country where innovation and ambition are way better than imitation. Finding your own path, creating and expressing yourself as you want to, always being original, these are assumed to be the superior ways that bring reward. But in the Christian life, imitation of God is lifted up, and innovation in theology or ambitiously finding your own path are discouraged. We are to walk in love, as Christ loved us. We are to forgive one another, as God in Christ forgave you. We are to to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Jesus shows us the way. He says, “For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” And he goes on to say, “For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he is doing.” There is no guesswork here … the Father in His love for the Son shows Him all that He is doing and then the Son imitates Him.
There is no need to innovate in the Christian life, i.e., make up new rules and new ways and new gods … the Father has let us know who He is and what He is doing – He is saving. He is providing. He is loving us as His children. And the Scriptures are full of instruction on how we might imitate God in His forgiveness, kindness, righteousness, compassion, truth and love. In fact, Jesus shows us what that looks like as he perfectly imitates the Father and so as we imitate Christ, we imitate God. The apostle Paul was so committed to the imitation of Christ (and thus God) that he actually encourages the Christians in Philippi to “join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” That was the instruction to the Philippians – imitate Paul (and others) who are imitating the Son who is imitating the Father … in this way be imitators of God. If we are to have ambition, it ought to be the ambition to be the best Christ-imitators around … Wouldn’t it be great to be at the place where you would be able to say as Paul did to other believers, “imitate me” because I am an imitator of God. May our lives reflect a life of imitation of God over a “do it ourselves” attitude, and may the Lord be glorified as we follow after Him.