“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.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)
A couple summers ago I was working as a counselor at a day camp for young children and was having trouble with a couple of the children not respecting authority. When I met their parents a few days later, they talked to the camp staff with a lack of respect that was eerily similar to that of their children. Of course, the similarity between the two was no coincidence. The children were simply imitating what they saw their parents doing. Imitation is something that children don’t need to be taught. We all seem to come across it naturally as we are growing up.
Paul was likely aware of the imitation habit of children when writing his letter to the Ephesians. He tells all believers to “be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love.” He does not say to love people only when they’re nice to you, when you feel like it or when you are on a servant event. Our whole lives are to be about loving God and others. Seem like a tall task? In fact, it’s impossible. That’s why the second part of this verse is so important: “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Because Jesus lived a perfect life on our behalf, we don’t need to worry about having to try to be perfect. His sacrifice frees us to imitate God by living a life of love! Not only that, but He gives us His love in order to do so. This is amazing because if we were just trying to love others using our own human love, we would run out really quickly.
Instead of calling us to serve people every once in a while, God tells us to share the love of Christ with others in everything we do. Service is a lifestyle of imitating God, not a series of events or trips. God is all about building relationships with us, so in imitating Him we need to be focused on building loving relationships with those around us. It’s almost unfathomable that the God of the universe sees and loves us as His own children. But the fact that many people are living without that message and without that God is just as mindboggling. How can they not know they’re missing out on the absolute best that this life has to offer? How can they not know that there is a God who loves them enough to die for them? It’s our privilege to be able to share God’s love with those who don’t know it, and then watch God transform them through His love. When people ask why we’re treating them with love, we can respond, “I’m just imitating my Daddy.” What a wonderful freedom being called to live a life of service truly is!
God, thank you for loving us first and continually calling us back to Your love through Your Word and Sacraments. We ask that You fill us with Your love so that we can share it with our neighbors. Help us to build loving relationships with those around us as we seek to imitate You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!
Published April 2013