Then, be imitators of God, as beloved children; Ephesians 5:1
Imitators – When Paul exhorts the believers in Ephesus to imitate God, he fully expects that they will do so. We might find that expectation a little too much. After all, who can really imitate God? But Paul is adamant about it. His use of the Greek word mimetai comes from a verb meaning to mimic. He anticipates that his readers will copy the Holy One of Israel. Paul isn’t the only one who commands believers to copy God. John, Peter and Jesus all say the same thing. For most Western readers, this demand will be translated into some kind of spiritual attitude or moral behavior. We will think that imitating God means being kind, generous, forgiving and compassionate. It certainly does. After all, when God reveals His character in Exodus 34:6, He sets the standard for our like behavior. But if that’s all we think about when it comes to mimicking God, we will have overlooked the “then” in Paul’s exhortation.
In order to add the background to Paul’s requirement, we must go back to chapter 4 and look at his previous argument. Notice what he says:
Walk worthily of the calling (4:1), be humble and meek (4:2), be long-suffering and bear with one another (4:2), chase unity (4:3), exercise your ability to provide for the body (4:11), seek perfect completion (4:12), be fully grown in faith (4:13), speak the truth in love (4:15), assist each other (4:16), be distinctively different from the world (4:17), put off the old man (4:22), be renewed in the Spirit (4:23), put on the new man (4:24), be a good neighbor (4:25), do not sin (4:26), give no opportunity for the Accuser (4:27), do not steal (4:28), domesticate your tongue (4:29), do not grieve the Spirit (4:30), turn away from unholy attitudes (4:31), be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving (4:32).
After all this, “then” imitate God. Like most of Paul’s rabbinic instruction, we are not left in the dark about what to do. If you want to imitate God, just do those things listed in chapter 4. They are your self-check program for the copy machine. Anyone who does these things will exemplify the Lord and glorify His name.
Notice that nearly every one of the checklist indicators is understood as an action observable to others. In fact, these actions are easily recognizable. We know when someone is faking humility, resisting the Spirit, not controlling the tongue and retaining unholy attitudes. We don’t have any problem evaluating the checklist of others. Now, says Paul, it’s time to turn that natural discernment on ourselves. Paul provides the list. We have to do the evaluation. Maybe you’ll want to look over those “copy” behaviors again. And if you have trouble deciding how you’re doing, you can always ask your spouse!
Topical Index: imitators, mimetai, Ephesians 5:1