Be imitators of God , the author of the letter to the Ephesians exhorts the early church.
It is a bold statement
It is a statement that would have caused some confusion and even contention, these words are startling and upsetting and seem to be an impossible ideal – how can we seriously be expected to be imitators of God?
So what does this challenge we find in scripture mean for you and me?
How is it possible for a sinner like me to be imitate God?
Sometimes it is easier to understand something when we look at what it is not?
The writer is not saying we should try and put ourselves in the place of God. This is something that all of us who believe in God struggle with, the temptation or the desire to be God like.
What do I mean by God like ?– never being wrong, knowing everything, being in control of one’s destiny. We are not called to try and imitate God’s sovereignty. He alone is eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, etc. These are attributes that God cannot or will not share with us, but they are the very things that often come between ourselves and God and lead us away from a life of obedience to God.
So the author is not saying strive to us be like God in that way.
So we return to the question what does it mean to be imitators of God?
For Christians the answer lies in the person of Jesus. We believe that Jesus is God, not just a prophet or a holy man, but God. We state this every time we recite the creed at the Eucharist
God from God
light from light
true God from true God
of one being with the Father
so to be imitators of God we have to look at the person of Jesus in whom we see the fullness of God, not a partial reflection of God but the fullness of God.
It is because of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ that we are able to draw near to God, to know God – through him.
To be imitators of God therefore we need to imitate Jesus, not just admire him or follow him but be him in this world. This is something that we can do without running the risk associated with trying to take on the sovereignty of God.
As imitators of Jesus Christ we too reach out and welcome the stranger the sick and disposed, we too walk along side the poor and the destitute.
This may sound easy but look at how hard just in the last few weeks it has been to do that when we hear the language used to speak about refugees in Calais or fleeing north Africa to find refuge in Europe? And how different our society seems to be from 75 years ago when we did open our doors to those who were fleeing the evils of Nazism, how in this part of London we welcomed the children of Israel who left their parents to be exterminated in the death camps and began new lives here in this part of London.
How different is our language from 40 years ago when we welcomed hundred and thousands of East African Indians many of whom came to these parishes to begin a new life free from the tyranny and evil of Edi Armin.
Be imitators of God challenges the author of the letter to the Ephesians. If we are to take up this challenge then we will not be able to close our lives, our doors, our boarders to those around us and their needs.
We imitate Jesus in the way in which he loves the way in which he was obedient to God the father even to the point of giving up his own life that we might have life and life in abundance. We see in Jesus the only begotten Son of God and are called to imitate this Son of God and in so doing become one with him as the Son of God
We imitate God by being his children, as surely as Jesus was the Son of God, so you and I are the children of God and through Jesus are offered a new relationship that is defined and transformed by Love.
As children of God we are to live within this relationship of love that begins and ends with the Cross, Where Jesus gave his life to the Father and received it back at the resurrection. So too when we imitate Jesus we give our life to God and he returns it to us for eternity through the promise of the resurrection.
1Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 2and live in love, as Christ loved us* and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5.1-2
How does Jesus love us in whom we see the fullness of God, by the way he loves us, forgives us, treat us with compassion and kindness. Thank God we have not been treated as we deserve, in deed how we would be had not Jesus taken up his cross and given himself us for us a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.