Summary: Paul is suggesting we should not necessarily limit ourselves to colleagues, or instructors or even celebrities, maybe especially celebrities, as our examples. We should look to God.
Ephesians 5:1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
You know those puzzles with a thousand pieces or so? Some are really difficult. If you've ever tried to put one together, you know it's usually a lot easier if you have the picture from the puzzle the box came in. You need to see the final product, or the pieces often seem to not fit together. Or have you ever built a model, like a plane or ship? Without the instructions it can be nearly impossible to build a model successfully.
Have you ever had a mentor/parent/teacher you admired-someone you wanted to be like when you grew up? When i was about 12 years old my parents moved to a new home and i started attending a new school. I was trying to fit in. There was another new kid, i'll call him Ralph. He was a little awkward and at one point a group of kids were making fun of him, and he was standing by himself, in a ditch, surrounded by taunting children. I leaned over and said quietly to the young man standing next to me-his name was also Ken-"he is such a jerk". Ken said "I think he's cool". and stepped down and reached out to Ralph and helped him out of the ditch. With that the taunting ended. I thought to myself, "I want to be like that". I also thought "I don't want to be like i just was". I could see Ralph was a victim of cruelty, and needed someone to defend him. But it didn't occur to me I should be the one to be a friend to him until someone else set an example for me to follow.
As I've aged i've found it increasingly difficult to find mentors. This may be the case for all of us. We look at the folks around us and realize everyone is struggling. No one is perfect. At some point you have to become the person that sets the standard for others to follow. But there is growing research that indicates we learn and grow better and faster when we have a model to follow.
Paul is suggesting we should not necessarily limit ourselves to colleagues, or instructors or even celebrities, maybe especially celebrities, as our examples. We should look to God. Jesus also recommended this. He said
Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
When we merely imitate people we see around us, we set the bar too low. We need to look to God as our example, and His nature is seen in the words and actions of Jesus. Jesus must become our hero, our mentor, our goal and our model.
It's like we ourselves are under construction, and we ourselves are the construction crew. We are the puzzle, and it is our task to put the pieces together to form a beautiful picture. We are the disparate parts of the model, waiting to be molded and glued into the form they were designed for. Every day we are putting the pieces together through our choices and actions, our thoughts and prayers. We need to see the picture of the final form. We need a model. What is a little scary is the end product is not set, except by our own choices. We can choose to become a villain; we can choose to become a hero, or a demon, or a saint, or we can choose to become more like like Jesus. That is a model I would like to put together. And when the pieces of my life come together at the end, I would like people to see a picture of Jesus.
Let me be like the adoring child, looking always to you as the Example, the Standard for me to follow. Let me look no lower.
In Jesus' beautiful name