If you’ve listened to a post-game interview lately, then you’re well aware of America’s obsession with role models. Of course, a role model is someone you emulate, because you admire them and want to be like them. Now, no disrespect to people who currently have posters of celebrities or sports figures on their walls, but there’s really only one person worth emulating: Jesus.
Indeed, Ephesians 5:1 commands us to “be imitators of God.” What exactly does it mean to imitate God? Simply put, we should follow God’s example. After all, the previous verse instructed us to be “kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). If we want to imitate God, we must forgive others because God has forgiven us in Christ. Yet, that’s just part of the equation. According to Ephesians 5:2, we also must “walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us.” Naturally, imitating God requires loving others sacrificially, because Jesus loved us so much that He died for our sins.
Needless to say, this lines up perfectly with Christ’s command to love God wholeheartedly and love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). On a side note, Jesus wasn’t talking about being overly sentimental or feeling warm and fuzzy toward the world all the time. On the contrary, love is an action, not a feeling. Love involves patience, trust, humility, truth and above all, mutual respect (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Even non-Christians are familiar with Christ’s command to treat others as we want to be treated (Luke 6:31). To truly imitate God, however, we must take special care to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. In fact, Jesus said the world would recognize us by the love Christians have for each other (John 13:34-35). Why is this so important?
Remember, Jesus said “to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40). Who are the Lord’s brothers? He explained “whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother” (Matthew 12:50). This is why Jesus asked Paul, who was violently persecuting Christians at the time, “why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4) By loving our brothers and sisters in Christ sacrificially, we show our love for Jesus (1 John 4:19-20).
If we want to imitate God we must submit to one another because we are all members of the same body (Ephesians 5:21, 30). We serve each other, because Christ served us (Mark 10:43-45). Marriage is a good illustration of this. The husband loves his wife as his own body, like Christ loves His body (Ephesians 5:25-29). Likewise, wives submit to the husband and respect Him, just like Christians submit to Jesus and respect Him (Ephesians 5:22-24). The two become one, just like Christians become one with Christ as we imitate Him (Ephesians 5:31-32).
Of course, we can’t be one with Christ if we long for fulfillment or satisfaction in something else, such as sexual pleasure, lust for money or power, trying to gain popularity with coarse joking or please men with our rule-keeping and outward religiosity. Instead, we should be thankful we have everything we need and could ever want in Christ (Ephesians 5:3-4). This attitude of thankfulness is an acknowledgement of being filled with the full measure of God (Ephesians 3:19). It keeps us from longing for anything else. So, we should “keep seeking the things above, where Christ is” and set our “mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).