Paul says, ‘…be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God’ (Ephesians 5:1-2).
Copying God! That sounds like a big ask! Jesus said something similar. ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matt. 5:48). He had in mind letting our kindness shine on people whether they are good or bad, just like God does every day.
What I like here is we are to copy God ‘as beloved children’. That makes all the difference. He likes us. He made us to be his children. He has good things planned for us. We are not likely to copy someone who doesn’t like us!
So how can we be persuaded that we are God’s beloved children? It is a very big thing to say that we know God and know that he loves us and to know it in a way that stops us being jumpy and irritable and scared and selfish. A huge thing!
Paul continues by telling us about Jesus. He is the example. He ‘loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God’. This is very interesting.
When Jesus died on the cross to take our place, what he had in mind was that this was what his Father wanted. He knew how much the Father loved us. He knew the Father didn’t want us to die as sinners. He knew his Father’s forgiveness would flow freely to us if he took away our sins. So he died so we would know the same loving Father he did.
How amazing! Can you doubt that you, like Jesus, are a beloved child of God? Is there any reason not to live a life of love?
The best way to live for others is to live for God, as we are told here that Jesus did. Other people don’t always inspire our loving, but God succeeds all the time.
Wedon’t succeed all the time. Sometimes we forget God’s loving of us and treat people as those who should serve us rather than as those we can serve. We get proud of ourselves instead of proud of our loving Father. Then things go wrong, sometimes, terribly wrong.
Doing people harm is one thing but what is really sad here is that by not living in love, we hide God’s Fatherly care from others. There is nothing more important than that people know the truth about God, so Jesus said, ‘let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven’ (Matt. 5:16).
Remember that God always remains Father to us when we fail. He continues to put good things before us. For example, when Peter was told he was going to deny Jesus, the first thing Jesus said to him was, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms…’ (John 14:1-2).
We need to know that God remains our Father while we struggle to live as his children. Gradually he gets us reflecting what he is like. We, ‘…beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another’ (2 Cor. 3:18). We don’t reflect God by competing with him—that is, by trying to be as good as he is! Rather, we look at the Lord, and get transformed by him. So, let’s imitate God, as beloved children!