Growth by Imitation
by Tedd Tripp
Be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.”
This call to love in the first verses of Ephesians 5 is unique. It not only commands love for others, but it reminds us that loving others finds its origin in God’s love for us—for His beloved children. The Greek word translated as “imitate” comes into English as the word mimic. We are to mimic God or mirror Him. We are to be a reflection, the image of God in our love for others.
Romans 1 reminds us that the entire creation reflects God. His eternal power and divine nature are seen clearly in the creation (v. 20). The creation reflects God like an object is reflected in a highly polished stone, but mankind is uniquely designed to bear God’s image.
How can we imitate God? We must know what He is like. Theologians speak of God’s communicable and incommunicable attributes. By analogy, it is like diseases; some are communicable and others are incommunicable. The communicable ones are the ones you can get. Likewise, some of God’s attributes are incommunicable—things such as eternality, omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. God also has communicable attributes such as holiness, justice, goodness, compassion, or, according to Ephesians 5, love.
Paul reminds us that we have experienced the love of God. We are beloved children. Therefore, much growth takes place by imitation. We imitate those whom we look up to and admire. Boys learn to be men as they imitate worthy men. They see their father’s love expressed in his care for the family. They see his tenderness toward mother and how he strives to save her steps, and they imitate what they see. Children grow as they pretend to be adults, as they imitate the adults in their lives.
That’s the process of growth that we are called to in Ephesians 5. We must imitate God. We ask how would God show love in this situation? How would God’s love be demonstrated in acts of kindness? How would the forbearance of God encourage me to speak to God before I speak to others? How does God receive me when I have sinned? Does He withhold Himself? Does He require me to work it off? How does God in love rescue me when I have been foolish? How does God treat my lack of thoughtfulness about Him? How does God show compassion, kindness, tenderheartedness, and mercy? How does God love?
The issue of imitation is crystal clear in this text. We are to walk in love as Christ loved us. Through the sinless life and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, we are beloved children. We are not orphans. We are sons and daughters. God is our Father. He loves us as father loves his child, but perfectly. I am never an orphan. I am a dearly beloved son. In my greatest need I can come to Him, praying, “Our Father in heaven … .”