Summary: A person takes on the characteristics of the family to which he or she belongs. In this text Paul, shares at least three ways that we are to imitate God.
How To Be Like God
It is for me the most memorable scene of the movie. Pongo is watching out the window as a stream of people pass by heading toward the park. Each passing pet look like their owners.
When a couple have been together for a long time. They begin to look like one another.
Jonathon imitating me as we are walking down the sidewalk.
Paul recognizes that we have been adopted into God’s family as “dearly loved children.” These words remind us of our adoption in 1:5; and of our new family from 2:19 and 3:14-15.
However, to be a child of God means that we are to become like God.
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children …” (5:1)
The command to imitate God is breathtaking to us, but it is a thoroughly biblical idea. Although other texts may not be this explicit, the Bible assumes that God’s covenant people take their character from him.
The second half of 5:1 shows why the command to imitate God is legitimate: The readers are God’s children, who he loves. A person takes on the characteristics of the family to which he or she belongs.
In this text Paul, shares at least three ways that we are to imitate God. Let’s continue to read through these verses, and observe the ways we are to be like God.
1. Live a sacrificial life of love.
Vive una vida sacrificatoria del amor.
“… 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.” (5:2)
Since Paul’s readers belong to God’s family and, as his children, have received love, they should be like him and show love. Love is not an option in the Christian community. It is part of our DNA.
Yet, the way in which we are called to love is not the capricious, self-serving love of our time. The love that we are to extend to others has nothing to do with what do we get out of it.
The standard by which Christian love is shaped and energized is the self-giving love of Christ on the cross. Christ’s death is presented here as an example for our lives. The self-sacrificing love that he demonstrated in loving us the same sacrificial love that we are called to imitate.
This pattern of sacrifice describes God’s taking away his own anger. Our God is not a God who is removed from us, but a God who cares and who identifies with us. We have violated his commands and all he is, but he responds with self-giving love.
This self-giving love is evidence of God’s own favor. The sacrifice is pleasing to God not only because of the obedience of Christ, but also because of what it does in restoring humans into relation with God. The focus on sacrifice is to show that God accomplished for us what we could not accomplish for ourselves.
Now lets be honest – It is hard to like most others, let alone love them. Most others are rude, inconsiderate, selfish, full of pride, and I’m only talking about those in the church. We are utterly unlovely and unlovable.
Yes, we are – yet God chose to love us regardless of our unloveliness. God did not wait for us to become lovable before he demonstrated his love to us.
So often that is the condition that we mandate for our loving others. Do something to prove that you are worth loving and then I will love you. Show me you love me and I will love you. Prove to me that it is not a waste of my time and I will love you. Yet that is so antithetical to sacrificial love.
The command is for us to love others before they can love us back. Love them when they have nothing to offer us. Love them when they are unlovable, and rude, and self-absorbed. Love them when all they can do is love themselves. Love them when you don’t know if you will get anything out of it.
Living in love sums up the content of 4:25-32 within the context of the body of Christ. Yet, whereas 4:25-32 emphasized relations within the body, Paul is now emphasizing our conduct toward those outside of the body. This sacrificial love is the perfect bridge in describing the relational approach we should exhibit to those outside of God’s family.
Placed in this context our command becomes even more specific. Sacrificially love those who are outside of God’s family. Be like God and love the unlovely masses lost in their sin, stumbling in the darkness of their own depravity.
Now hold on – wait a minute.
We are like God when we live a sacrificial life of love. We are also like God when we …