Summary: As God's dearly loved children,we are to live a life of forgiving and self-giving love.
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DEARLY LOVED CHILDREN
Today is Valentine’s Day. Billions of dollars will be spent this weekend to buy items such as flowers and candy to express romantic love. God has demonstrated His love to us in a much more profound way. And it is His love—not romantic love, but divine love—that we are to express to one another.
Let’s turn in our Bibles to Ephesians 4. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians can be divided into two parts: chapters 1-3 are doctrinal and chapters 4-6 are practical. In the first half of this letter, Paul shares with his readers all of the spiritual blessings that believers have “in Christ.” And then he begins the second half by urging his readers to “keep the unity of the Spirit” (v. 3). In chapter 4, Paul tells them how they should behave to promote this unity. They must “put off falsehood and speak truthfully” (v. 25). They must not “steal” (v. 28). They must not “let any unwholesome talk come out of [their] mouths” (v. 29). They must “get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (v. 31). And that leads us to this morning’s text: Ephesians 4:32-5:2.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. 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.
Paul writes in verse 1 that we are to be “imitators of God.” The truth is, God has some attributes that you and I will never be able to copy. For example, God has the ability to create (make something out of nothing). No matter how hard I try, I will never be able to say, “Let there be a cheeseburger,” and cause a cheeseburger to appear before me. (It’s probably good that I don’t have that ability!) But according to this passage, there is a way every believer can imitate God. How? “As dearly loved children.”
Paul has already written in Ephesians that believers are the children of God. “[God] predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:5). We are “members of God’s household” (Eph. 2:19). We are God’s “dearly loved children.”
We are to IMITATE God by loving others just as He has loved us.
Back in the fall, when Marsha and I went to meet Connor’s teacher for a parent-teacher interview, his teacher said as I walked in the room, “You don’t need to tell me who you are.” Why? Because she said that Connor looks just like me. (Marsha was a little upset because people usually say Connor looks like her.) Some children are miniature versions of one of their parents. They look and act just like their mother or father. When people look at us they should be able to say, “It’s obvious that he/she is a child of God. I can see God’s love in his/her life.”
IMITATING GOD’S LOVE
How can we—God’s children—imitate His love? In this passage, Paul gives us two ways you and I can imitate the love of God.
1. Live a life of FORGIVING love.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (4:32).
Even when we are “kind” and “compassionate” to others, people will still hurt us, and we will need to forgive. Think of Jesus. He was perfectly kind and compassionate, yet He was crucified. And while He was hanging on the cross, He prayed, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34).
Peter once asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” (Matthew 18:21). Jesus answered Peter’s question by telling a parable. In the parable, a servant is forgiven a huge debt by the king. But later, the same servant refuses to forgive a small debt owed to him by a fellow servant. The king represents God; the servant represents us; the fellow servant represents the people who wrong us. The lesson of the parable? Our forgiveness of others should be without limits (not just seven times!) because that’s how God has forgiven us.
One country song says, “We bury the hatchet, but leave the handle sticking out.” We may not be able to forgive and forget. But as verse 31 says, we need to “get rid of bitterness.” We need to practice the command of verse 26: “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”
We are to forgive one another “just as in Christ God forgave [us].” I am not perfect. You are not perfect. Unfortunately, we are going to do things that hurt one another. That’s why we need to imitate God by living a life of forgiving love.