Imitating Our Heavenly Father

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 5:1-2

For years, people told my son, Nathan, that he was "just like his dad." I remember someone saying to me, "Oh my gosh! Nathan is a mini-Mark." His resemblance to me wasn't just a matter of appearance, especially since Nathan had red hair and I had brown hair . . . um, well, brown and grey hair. I guess Nathan spoke and acted much as I did, though it was hard for me to see it. Now that Nathan is on his own, when I meet his friends, they'll often say things to me like, "Oh, you are so much like Nathan."

Both intentionally and unintentionally, children imitate their parents. They learn how to act and speak by watching their parents and doing what they see and hear. This should also be true in our relationship with our Heavenly Father. In Ephesians 5:1 we read, "Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children." As we have seen in an earlier reflection, this imperative could be translated more literally, "Be imitators of God, therefore, as beloved children."

Of course, as our Father in heaven, not to mention King of kings and Lord of lords, God could demand our imitation as a matter of sheer obedience. In the first-century Roman world, fathers had supreme authority over their children, even when they grew up. Paul could well have written, "Follow God's example, therefore, as children who must obey their father." But, instead, Paul highlights a dimension of fatherhood that was often minimized in his culture: love. Our imitation of our Heavenly Father is a response, not to his sovereignty, but to his love. We are to be like him because we are his "dearly loved children."

In my life, I do try to be like God in ways that are appropriate. (Too often, I also try to be like God in unhelpful ways, like trying to be the Lord of my life.) My imitation is usually motivated by a sense of duty. I seek to be like God because I should. However true this may be, my emphasis on duty misses the nuance of Ephesians 5:1. This verse suggests that, if I want to be more like God, I should allow his love to fill my mind and pervade my heart. The more I receive the love of God, the more I will be motivated and empowered to imitate him.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What helps you to understand God's love for you? What helps you to experience God's love for you? Can you think of times in your life when God's love motivated you to be like God?

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me. Thank you for loving me, not because I have done anything to earn your love, but because you are Love.

Forgive me, Father, for the ways I ignore or minimize your love for me. Forgive me for the times I turn the life of discipleship into an exercise of my will rather than a grace-filled reception of your love. Help me to believe that I am your beloved child, and that nothing in heaven or earth can separate me from your love. May your love transform me, so that I might indeed be an imitator of you in what I do and say. Amen.


Performance vs. Potential

The gap between performance and potential is far from neutral. On the positive side, it inspires. Think of the young professional who sees her future self in a seasoned colleague and dreams of achieving great things for God. Optimism and drive mark this view. On the negative side, however, the gap can be as haunting as it is illusory. Haunting because it confirms just how much we come up short; illusory because the gap tortures us with false truths about rank and value. For those who suffer the latter, even Jesus’ promise to be sufficient in our weakness goes unheard.

In The High Calling series on Performance vs. Potential, we’re taking an honest look at both perspectives. Will you join us? Whether you’re a dreamer seeking growth, or a doubter seeking peace, we believe you’ll be encouraged by what you read.

Image above by Vicky Shirley. Used with Permission. Via Flickr.