For the last couple of lessons I have given from the pulpit, the focus has been on God’s amazing love for us (Romans 5:8) and our need to grow in our understanding of that love (Ephesians 3:14-21). These are things we, as followers of Christ, should be exhibiting to those whom we come in contact with on a daily basis. Today we take this thought one step further, developing in more detail what it means to love.
Let’s be honest, so often when love is being discussed, it is inextricably linked to feelings: You know that “thing” that can change in an instant. Now, I don’t want to suggest that feelings don’t play a role when it comes to expressing love; but feelings should not be allowed to direct or guide that love. Instead, we should seek the one constant, when it comes to this subject, and that is God. What does God desire of His followers when it comes to expressing love?
We will seek to answer this question, at least in part, by revisiting the letter to the church in Ephesus. Remember, the church in Ephesus, according to Revelation 2:4, had “left” their first love. They were busy doing things, but something was missing: they had lost sight of Him. This warning, more than likely, was given some 30 or so years after Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was penned. So what can we learn about godly love that can keep us from going down a similar road?
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love,
as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering
and sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. Ephesians 5:1-2
We are called to be imitators (KJV, followers) of God! The ETRV says, “So try to be like God.” What a seemingly impossible objective. During His ministry on earth, Jesus exhorts His followers to “be perfect” (Matthew 5:48) and Peter would exhort his readers to “be holy” because God is holy (1st Peter 1:16). Although a lofty goal, the fact of the matter is, there can be no transformation without goals. The “therefore” causes us to reflect on Paul previous thoughts, which spoke of our need to forgive as we are also forgiven. (Ephesians 4:32) To imitate God, in part, is to live a life that is willing to forgive, modeling that which we ourselves have received through Christ.
The quest to be “imitators of God” is a challenge; but one willingly accepted because we are His children. Imitating God carries with it a choice; that is, a choice of direction. The Holy Spirit reveals through Paul that we are to “walk in love.” Later on he will talk about the need to “walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8), as well as to “walk circumspectly” (Ephesians 5:15). The word walk comes from a Greek word that means to regulate one’s life. Walking involves both a sense of direction as well as a choice, and is done intentionally.
Our model for this endeavor, of course, is Jesus. He shows us the way. 1st John 2:6 says, “He who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk just as He walked.” How did Jesus walk in love? He did it by willingly giving of Himself and offering Himself to God as a sacrifice. Love demands not only choice, but sacrifice. As one person wrote, “This points insistently to the fact that love means sacrifice, service, self-dedication which involves total self-sacrifice.”
When we embark on a life that seeks to love by mimicking our Savior, we can know with confidence that it is a “sweet-smelling aroma” to God. What I am left with now is this simple prayer, “Lord, please help me to be like You.”