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.
According to Ephesians 5:1, we are to “Follow God’s example.” The Greek underlying this imperative reads more literally, “Be imitators of God.” Now that’s a tall order . . . and a wonderful one, too.
This isn’t the first time in Scripture that God’s people are instructed to be like God. In Leviticus 19:2, for example, God says to Israel, “Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.” In Matthew 5:48, Jesus says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” A few verses earlier in Ephesians, we learn that we are “to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (4:24).
The basis of our potential to be like God comes from our essential nature. In Genesis 1, God creates humankind in God’s own “image” and “likeness” (Gen. 1:26). Like God, human beings are to exercise authority over the earth, helping it to become all that the Creator intended it to be. Yet, as you may recall, we were not created to be like God in every way. In particular, we were not meant to be like God in having “the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:17). In Genesis 3, the serpent tempts the woman to sin with the promise that she “will be like God, knowing good and evil” (3:7).
So, we are to be like God in many ways. We are to imitate God in holiness, by living in a way that is different from what is common in our fallen world. We are to imitate God in righteousness, by obeying God so that our relationships are just and healthy. Yet, we are not to be like God in omniscience. There is some knowledge that is reserved for God alone. And we are not like God in ultimate sovereignty. Unlike God, we are called to obey one who is greater than we are. God obeys no one. We obey the one, true God, living our whole lives in service and submission to him.
Perhaps the way we are least like God is in the ability to save. Though we can receive God’s gift of salvation through Christ, and though we can share the good news of this salvation with others, we cannot save ourselves and we cannot save others. God alone is able to save. He does this not because of anything we do, but because of his matchless grace and abundant love.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In what appropriate ways are you being like God? Are you ever tempted to be like God in ways that are not right, such as in trying to be Lord of your own life? As you think about how you might be like God today, what comes to mind? How might you rightly be like God at work? In class? Among your friends? With your family?
PRAYER: Once again, Lord, I am astounded by the honor and overwhelmed by the challenge of being like you. I want to be like you in all the right ways. And I want to stop trying to be like you in all the wrong ways. Help me, Lord, to discern wisely how I should be like you and how I should not be like you. In particular, I ask you to help me stop trying to be the Lord of my own life.
By your Spirit, guide me to be like you today, as I treat people with love and grace. Amen.