“Be imitators of GOD, therefore, as dearly loved children”
Ephesians 5:1 (emphasis added)
The Sincerest Form of Flattery
I am a simple man, not a great theologian, and I tend to read and understand scripture in a straightforward way. The Bible makes plain that, when we are reborn in Christ, we are called to be “imitators of GOD,” that is, imitators of his communicable character attributes, those attributes GOD “shares” with his adopted children. We can know the character of our GOD because it is clearly revealed in scripture. God is loving, patient, kind, good, joyful, faithful, forgiving, generous, courageous, and holy just to name a few. These are traits we should strive to imitate.
As “dearly loved children” we are also to imitate the things the Father does. Jesus says in John 5:19, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” Does this carry over to the adopted sons (believers) as well? Jesus implies that it does when he goes on to say in John 14:12, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”
A GOD size assignment
Be “imitators” of GOD. Now, if you are like me, that is an amazing and yet frightening command. To be honest, at first glance it sounds like yet another impossibly high bar to jump and frankly a little burdensome. For me it ranks right up there with, “Be holy as I am holy,” in terms of potentially discouraging expectations. But at closer examination, it really is the promise of living in the presence and power of our Father, enjoying his company and learning while working at his side.
Notice what Jesus did not say. He did not say, “anyone who has faith in me will be required to do what I have been doing. Or be required to do even greater things than these.” Instead, Jesus uses an affirmative statement, saying that anyone who has faith in me “will” do what I have been doing and “will” do even greater things. The idea here is that, as adopted children of GOD, walking in the Spirit, we will want to be imitators of our Father, not forced, and that we are empowered by Christ himself, to do these things. That should be exciting and encouraging news. What dearly loved child doesn’t want to imitate dad?
Dad is at your side
Let’s look even more closely at part of that statement. Jesus said, “Whatever the Father does the Son also does.” If you were blessed with a good relationship with your father perhaps you recall “working” alongside him in the shop or singing with him in the choir or pushing the lawn mower with him. You might remember that no matter what you did, Dad always seemed to make the work you did together turn out well. You might recall the sense of being stronger and more capable with Dad by your side.
If you’re a dad then you’ve seen the other side of the coin. One spring Saturday several years ago, I stood preparing to stain the deck and backyard fence of our townhouse. I had borrowed our neighbors paint gun to make things move along a little faster. All was going according to plan until my oldest son Michael, then just four years old, showed up and, with his most earnest and eager face on, asked if he could help me paint. I was all too familiar with this kind of “help” and I knew it was going to make my job a lot more difficult, but I couldn’t say no. I didn’t want to say no. I wanted to give my son a chance to work with his Dad just as I had with mine. So, after several hours, we succeeded in painting the fence, the deck, the grass, part of our aluminum siding and one of my neighbors’ trees. Was it the easiest way? No. Could I have done it better alone? No doubt. But it was a day that neither of us has forgotten.
Be of good cheer, GOD isn’t loading another expectation on you; He is inviting you to participate with Him at his work. It’s a heavenly “take your child to work day” invitation.
So how does all of this discussion impact the knock-down drag-out fight for the souls of the worlds children?
After reading Psalm 68:5-6, the answer should come into focus.
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is GOD in his holy dwelling.
GOD sets the lonely in families”