Now I don't say this for pride or selfish purposes. I was telling them jokingly that 'imitation is the best form of flattery' and it later struck me just how true this is of our faith in Jesus.
We love to imitate people don't we?
People we have as role models, people we aspire to be like. Especially in a celebrity culture we currently live in, we see it all the time. We copy them, try to be like them. Look like them, talk like them, act like them.
Babies often imitate things they see as they try to learn. Sometimes they imitate their parents.We love to imitate.
Sometimes of course it goes over the top and gets unhealthy and can become idolatry, especially today. It causes problems when people imitate the wrong things.
Yet imitation is actually Biblical, in its proper context. Done in the proper way. As with a lot of things.
In Ephesians 5 v 1-2 it says the following...
"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"
Now this passage has a 'therefore' at the beginning, and its always helpful when that happens to look at what it says immediately before the passage you've quoted.
In Ephesians 4 v 22-32, the end of the chapter, its says the following:
"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."
The Bible says we are to be 'imitators of God'.
What a truly awesome statement. There is such power in this line.
God wants us to 'imitate' Him. Just before that (and a little immediately after) He explains what that is.
Just to clear up any confusion, lets look at what the meaning of the word 'imitator' means. Here's the dictionary definition
"Imitator: Synonyms: imitate, copy, mimic, simulate. These verbs mean to follow something or someone taken as a model.
To imitate is to act like or follow a pattern or style set by another"
So how does this translate into the passage?
I believe the passage is saying God wants us to follow His pattern, to act like Him. To model our lives on His values, His standards, to orientate our whole lives around Him. To follow Him.
It even tells us how we can do it.
Living a life of love. Making sacrifices. Serving others.
Paul make it clear that imitating God primarily involves following Christ's example.
God wants Jesus to be our model for how to live a human life.
He wants us to act like Him. Be like Him. Live like Him. Follow His pattern. Follow His way. To take Him as our role model. Not worldly role models who all have their flaws. Jesus is the one to be put on that pedestal, to be copied and followed.
God is saying "If you want to be like me and live how I want you to live, look at Jesus".
Now this doesn't appear to be an optional extra, its not something we do just at church. Its not something we can opt out of.
Its a command.
The Bible and Christian history tells us that when God calls us to something He equips us so we can do it to the full. He gives us all the tools we need to do it.
So when the Bible says this, to me God is basically saying that He believes we are capable of reaching this standard. That if we are true imitators of Him and model Jesus' life, we can be just like Him.
Obviously, not in the sense that we can be divine or be a saviour.
But He believes that we can model His lifestyle, His behaviour, the way He treated people, to stand for justice and truth, to serve those in need, to change lives.
He knows we can be like Jesus. That we are capable of fully imitating Him.
All the things Paul talks about in Chapter 4 are related to that, are all ways of imitating Jesus. All ways to live like Him and deal with the temptations we have every day not to. So Paul gives us everything we need here.
He says what we need to do, how we should do it and makes it very clear for us. What encouragement to know that God believes in us. That God expects such high standards from us despite our sin.
It has to be because He believes in us, and has hope in us. That He knows that if we try to live like Jesus and allow Him to influence every area of our lives, that we can actually do it with God's help and in God's power.
We can do it.But we need to be careful how we do it.
We don't just want to put Jesus on the top of a list in our lives. To truly imitate Him we need to put Him at the centre.
You see I heard a talk today saying that often in the past people have put God at the top of their priorities, that He is number one, above all things. That has value. God is above all things, He does rule over all things, and He should be a priority in our lives.
But being at the top means that you don't often get a look at everyone or everything below you, as the Chief Executives or managers of many companies or organisations know.
To truly know everything and impact everything around you, you need to be at the centre, where you can see everything.
That's where Jesus needs to be.
Then He's much more likely to be part of everything we do, and our everyday lifestyle. He is more likely to impact every area of our lives and everywhere we are.
If He's at the top of a list, then He becomes sectioned off, a part of our lives, but doesn't effect all the rest of it.
No, He needs to be at the centre.
He needs to be the role model we put right at the very heart of our identity and lifestyle. Everything else we do is then going to have Jesus involved, and we'll be looking to model Jesus in whatever area of our life and whatever we're doing, whoever we're with and wherever we are, and whatever circumstances we encounter.
Then the impact is greater.
The passage says we must do this. God clearly believes - or rather, knows - we can.
We might feel like failures or that we'll never get it right. That no matter what we do we we never be good enough. But God says differently. He calls us all to be imitators of Him. He says to us, that if we put Him at the very centre of our lives we can be like Him.
He doesn't just believe it either. He knows it.
So let us put Him at the centre of our lives. Let us become true followers of God.
Imitators of Jesus.
Do things His way and no other.
Orientating everything around Him, His kingdom and values.
He believes that we are capable of it. And He's never wrong and He never lies.