Summary: Paul writes that we should imitate our Heavenly Father like children. How does a child imitate their parent, how can we "imitate God" and what difference can that make to our witness as Christians?
I have a 2-year-old grandson who lives with me right now - along with is mom and dad - and he loves being with me. We watch cartoons together/ play together, and we work together. We mow grass (we showed a picture of him pushing a toy mower) and we wash the dishes (we showed a picture of him playing in dish suds). We have a great time! And, as you can tell, he imitates me a lot… and that gives me great joy. In fact, it gives God great joy when we imitate Him.
Our passage today says “be imitators of God, as beloved children.” (Ephesians 5:1) Like a beloved child, be an imitator of your heavenly Father. So… was God saying that simply because it gives Him pleasure for us to do that? Well, no. So, why would God think that would be important?
ILLUS: A writer with “Parents Magazine” had this to say about children imitating their parents (I did a little editing on this article for my purposes). “My husband, Larry, had just come in from a run and was stretching in our entryway. In a flash, Judah (our 14-month-old son) was by his side, copying his dad’s every move: touching his toes, stretching toward the ceiling, even pushing against the wall with his scrawny toddler arms. Larry and I cracked up, but our little boy took his workout SERIOUSLY. Whenever I talk on the phone, he's conversing beside me. And when Larry pumps his arm in the air to cheer a touchdown on TV, Judah pumps his air up too… mimicking his father. Sometimes we'd grab the camcorder to record Judah's behavior, but imitation for toddlers is much more than a show. By copying adults during this crucial year of growth, 1-year-olds learn a vast array of skills. One expert noted “Imitation is vital to the development of abilities ranging from language to social skills” explains Lisa Nalven, M.D., a developmental and behavioral pediatrician at the Valley Center for Child Development, in Ridgewood, New Jersey.” [written by Chana Stiefel; https://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/development/behavioral/what-your-child-learns-by-imitating-you/]
Did you catch that? Imitation is VITAL to the development of a child’s abilities. And who that child copies, influences what skills they pick up. And so Paul writes: “as beloved children, be imitators of God.” Be like a child, and imitate your Heavenly Father! Grow up to be like your Dad!
But now, what does that mean? What does it mean for me to be like my Heavenly Father?
Well first we read that we should “WALK IN LOVE, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:2
I found it interesting that Paul didn’t start out by telling us what we SHOULDN’T do! I mean… that would be logical (to tell us what we should not do) because parents spend most of their daily lives telling their child things like: “Don’t do that!” And “Don’t touch that!” And the ever popular… ‘Nooooooo!” (which, by the time they’ve said that… it’s usually too late).
But that’s often what a parent’s conversation consists of: telling their child what they SHOULD NOT do! So, why start out telling US what we CAN do, rather than what we can’t? Well, it’s hard to copy something that God’s not doing! If God isn’t DOING something, how do you imitate that? So Paul starts out telling us what God DOES, and says DO THAT! Walk in love.
The Bible talks a lot about God walking in Love, and us imitating Him. In Luke 6:35-36 Jesus said “love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be (note this) sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”
Again, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declared "… I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be (note this) sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:44-48
And John wrote this in I John 4:10-11 “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
Over and over again the Bible repeats this: Imitate Your Father – Walk In Love.
But, why emphasize this so much? Why stress “Walk in love?” Well, because we don’t generally don’t do that very well. All you have to do is spend time on social media (on FB or Twitter, etc) and read how people treat each other. Or spend time around people who talk about politics all the time and listen as they spew hatred on others who disagree with them. Or watch the violence on the news every day. A lot of folks just don’t “walk in love.” They don’t imitate God.