This week we have been reading Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. He has much to say to us about how to live the Christian life in such a way that others around us will be intrigued. He talks about setting aside our old ways of living and taking on the new way of Christ. And in the beginning of chapter 5 he puts forth the challenge for us to “imitate God, therefore, in everything you do because you are his dear children.”
The use of the word “therefore” in Ephesians 5:1 is a clue that the verse is being connected to what was written in chapter 4. If possible, when you are reading a book of the Bible, especially a short one like Ephesians, try to read it in its entirety in one sitting. Even though we have the chapters dividing the different thoughts or topics, the entire book flows as one letter. The definition of the word therefore is “for that reason; consequently” so Paul is saying, “For the reasons I just laid out in chapter 4, imitate God as dearly loved children.” Chapter 4 lists behaviors that as Christ followers, should now be eliminated in our lives: bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. These things should be replaced with kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness. These are the things that we should imitate because they are all characteristics of God.
What if God was not kind? What if He didn’t have a tender heart toward us? What if He didn’t forgive us? As evil as the world can be, God’s presence is still here. None of us have ever experienced a world without God, but that’s exactly what hell will be like. We can’t imagine a place where there is no goodness whatsoever, no shred of decency to be found, a complete lack of kindness, because no matter how hard our lives may have been, God has still been present.
For better or worse, children imitate their parents. What is played out at home is often played out in other areas. For those of us that are followers of Christ, God is now our Father and Paul is using that to imply a natural progression: Be like your Dad. We are to take on the characteristics of God as our own and allow them to shape who we are. People around us should be able to see the family resemblance in our actions, our words and the way we love. We have some awfully big shoes to fill, but I’m so grateful that God doesn’t expect perfection, but He does expect us to be making progress. And He will give us all that we need to do just that.
Executive Director of Education and Outreach