When I was a young child, I looked up to Gary. He was the picture of “cool.” At least he was in my mind. Gary is my uncle, and when I was a child, he was in his teens; dark hair, well dressed, and seemed to have all the cool friends in town. I can recall one specific day, rather vividly, when I was at my grandparent’s house and Gary was home. He came out on the patio where I was playing and he sat down to put on his shoes. As I watched him lace and tie his new, red Chuck Taylors, I remember thinking to myself, “Man, Gary is so cool. When I grow up, I want to be like him.” In sixth grade, I finally got my first pair of Chuck Taylors, but I really never became as cool as Gary. As hard as I tried, I found that being cool was more than a new pair of shoes. I did all I could to imitate my uncle, but I somehow missed whatever gene it was that he had.
Imitating others is something most all of us have done at some point in our lives. We have those heroes that, in our own mind, we wanted to be like. The apostle Paul was writing to the church in Ephesus when he gave this encouragement:
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Imitating God is kind of overwhelming. Just the thought of it can cause us to break out in a sweat. How can someone so imperfect even come close to perfection? Can’t be done. As hard as I try, I’ll never be perfect on this earth. Some might say, “Well since I can never be perfect, I’ll just stop trying.” That’s not the mindset that the Bible teaches us. We are to continue striving for the goal of perfection. It is very similar to training for something physical. I keep pushing myself physically so that I will grow stronger and stronger. Likewise, the process of continually striving to be like God will grow my faith in Him, and the reflection of His presence in my life will become clearer and clearer.
Practicing the presence of God in our lives will leave us asking, “Where do I start?” Look at the first part of that passage I just quoted. Paul says we are to be kind, compassionate, forgiving, and loving to one another, just as Christ did. Imitating God will make us look a lot like His Son, Jesus. And in doing so we will develop a heart for those around us. We’ll love sacrificially, forgive sacrificially, and look to find ways to serve, sacrificially. As I understand it, that’s what I believe the apostle Paul was communicating. He wasn’t instructing us that equality with God is our goal, but to strive to be more like him. That’s imitating. And as we imitate, we reflect the image of the One who has been, and continues to be, sacrificially kind, compassionate, forgiving and loving to us. And in the process of imitation, His character is more evident in ours. We start becoming like Him.
I didn’t possess the “cool” genes that my uncle did. But as a child of God, and because of the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, my DNA is linked directly to His. And I can be like Him. Not equal, but an imitator. I can be a reflection of His character. Who does the world see when it looks at you?
Keep imitating. Keep reflecting. Keep growing.
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