I want to make God proud. I want to be like him. I want to see something of his character formed in me. I want to be holy and righteous. Here in Ephesians 5, Paul urges us to seek exactly that. He tells us to “imitate God in everything we do” because of the fact that we are his dear children. That’s what children do: they copy their parents. How do babies learn to speak? By emulating their parents! As adopted children of God, we are to do the same! We should live a life that is filled with love. God is, after all, love. And how do we imitate God? By knowing him – and we know him best in the person of Jesus. We are to imitate the God who loves to the point of sacrifice. That is what a life pleasing to God “smells” like!
Of course, if we are to imitate God, then we are to not imitate the world. Sexual immorality, impurity, greed, foolish talk, obscene stories, coarse jokes: these aren’t appropriate for children of God. Imitating that would be like taking your kids to a drug dealer for daycare! No: our attitude should be one of thankfulness to God for all that he has done for us. In all things, God should be front and centre. If I feel that what I am saying or doing or thinking would be something that God wouldn’t be smiling at, then I’m not living a life in imitation of him; I’m living a life in rebellion against him.
Because we can either worship God, or we can worship the world. We can long for him, or we can long for the things of this world. Paul highlights greediness here as an example of idolatry – greedy for food or greedy for belongings: it begs the question what’s most important in our lives.
Of course, we want to rationalise away such sins as these. But we can’t. Darkness is darkness and light is light. We used to be full of darkness, but now God’s lights is in us and so we should now be living as people of the light. Because the light in us – God in us by his Spirit – produces only what is good and true and right. We should be living led by the Spirit, not by our own sinful desires.
I need to carefully determine what pleases the Lord, and then seek to live that way. Truth is – evil will be outed when Jesus returns. There’s enough of that in my past – in all of our pasts. So let’s be wise, let’s try to understand what the Lord wants us to do before we do it! Let’s not escape from reality, but embrace the ultimate reality as we are filled with the Holy Spirit. Let us live as citizens of God’s kingdom; as a people who have so much to thank God our Father for because of and in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And Paul’s not just speaking theoretically here. Living a life in imitation of God applies to all of our lives all of the time. Starting with our familial relationships. Out of reverence for Christ, husbands and wives, for instance are to submit to one another. Wives are to submit to their husbands, and husbands to their wives. Why? Because of Jesus! Because the church submits to its head: Christ, wives are submit to theirs: their husband. Christ did more than could be expected for the church. He did it all to bring the church to the place where it will be all that God meant for it to be: perfect, holy, righteous, without spot or blemish or wrinkle. Wives are to submit to their husbands who are to be like that! Submission for husbands means imitating Christ’s love for his church – his body; it means loving our wives as our own bodies, which is what they are become in marriage! And how much easier should it not be to respect such a husband!
There are more practical workings out of this chapter to come. But the crux of it is this: to reflect God and not the world in everything I am and everything I do.
Lord – please help me to do that. Be formed in me. Help me to live according to who you are. Thank you for Jesus. Help me in every part of my life to be like him, and especially as a husband.