Summary: What does it mean to imitate God? And what stops us from doing that effectively?
OPEN: Lily Tomlin is a famous woman comedian. Once she said,
"I always wanted to be somebody, but I should have been more specific."
APPLY: A lot of people would like to be somebody.
The past couple of nights, little children went "Trick Or Treating" dressed up to be “somebody”. Some of those kids dressed up in funny costumes, and others put on scary outfits. But a lot of kids dressed like somebody they admire or a character they’d like to be like. There were a lot of Spidermen, Ninja Warriors, Transformers, princesses and queens. And they often choose those costumes because they’d like to be like that hero/heroine.
Now, when I was a kid, my hero was Zorro.
I’d put on a black cape, pretend I was riding a black horse and I’d swing around a fake sword. Even after I’d entered my teens, I still had that admiration for that fictitious hero . When I was in High School I discovered that a local college was offering courses in fencing (it hurts when you get whacked with those things), and after I got out of High School, I hired on at a local horse barn to lead trails so I could ride a noble steed. Granted my noble steed’s name was “Peanuts” – but he was my noble steed.
I wanted to be somebody… I wanted to imitate my hero.
I realize how silly that sounds, but to some degree many people have had heroes that they tried to imitate as a child and that hero may even have influenced how they look at life today.
Now Paul tells us that one of the greatest heroes we can have is God.
“Be imitators of God” he says.
I recently read about a child who told his mother he wanted to dress up like God for Halloween.
“Like God?” She said “how would you dress to look like Him?”
“Oh” he said “I’d put on a white robe, a wig and long beard… and I’d wear flip flops.”
ILLUS: In fact, back in 2000 I read of a man who did just that. His name was Carl J. Joseph, and the Washington Post explained that Mr. Joseph had spent 9 yrs wandering through 13 countries and 47 states. He usually walked bare footed dressed in a long robe, and his resemblance to Jesus was so striking that people often flooded into churches just to see him. (Hanna Rosin of The Washington Post 2/13/00)
So… is that what Paul meant when he said we should imitate God?
Should we all start going barefoot and wearing robes?
(pause) I don’t think so.
Imitating God has less to do with our wardrobe than with our hearts.
Besides, we already bear a resemblance to God. Back in Genesis 1:26 “God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…’" We bear a strong resemblance to our Father… but sin has marred that image, so we need to relearn what once was natural for Adam and Eve.
Imitating God goes deeper than wearing a wig, beard and flip flops.
The Greek Word here in Ephesians for “imitate” is “mimetes” and it comes from the Greek family of words from which we get our English “mime” and “mimic”.
So Paul is telling us to mimic God - to imitate how God behaves, not how He dresses.
How can we imitate God?
Well, first Paul tells us we need to imitate God’s love.
Look again at Ephesians 5:1-2 “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and LIVE A LIFE OF LOVE, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
God has set us an example of how to love. In I John 4:10 John tells us “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
In the next verse of that chapter, John says “ since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” I John 4:11
In fact, 1 John 4:8 declares “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
That’s what we ought to do as Christians! We ought to love one another. But, oddly enough, we can have a hard time loving others. In fact, it’s such a difficult issue for us mortals that the Bible spends a great deal of time telling us to do it.
One poem described the problem this way:
“To dwell above with saints we love,
That would be grace and glory.
But to live below with saints we know;
Well, that’s quite a different story!”
Now, why do we have such a hard time loving others?
Because sin has deformed our souls to the point where we tend to think of ourselves as gods.