Perhaps you have known of children who put on their parent’s shoes. I can remember as a child trying to walk around our house in my father’s shoes. It was a difficult task, as the shoes were rather large compared to my little feet. Yet there was great enjoyment in this activity. Certainly, it bemused me to trip over myself trying to maintain control. The real joy, though, came from the fact that I looked a little bit more like my dad. I shared his shoes. When one saw me walking about the house, one recognized immediately who I was trying to imitate. That is not to say that I imitated him to perfection. His shoes were big shoes to fill, and until I matured, my feet could not fit into them. Paul may have had a similar concept in his mind when he told the Ephesian brethren to be, “…imitators of God as dear children” (Ephesians 5:1). A child looks to his father as the very epitome of what he ought to be like. Little boys will attempt to sing bass so they sound like their dad. They will pick up phrases and mannerisms by watching how their father speaks and interacts. As children of God, we ought to look at Him as a loving child would their own father. There should be a respect and love for Him that causes us to desire to be like Him. John, in 1 John 3:1, points out the great love our Father has for us in calling us His own children. His desire has always been to elevate us to be like Him. He was not willing that any should perish, so He gave us all the opportunity to repent (2 Peter 3:9). This is the love our Father has for us. Should we not desire to exhibit the very same qualities in our own lives that make Him so great?
Someone may point to Isaiah 55:8-9, where we learn that God’s thoughts and ways are far above our own, and wonder why Paul would encourage us to imitate God. Is there not some lower standard that we could measure up to? It is impossible to expect that we would fill the shoes of God. So too, it is impossible to expect a three year old to fill his own physical father’s shoes. However, that does not mean we should not desire and try to imitate God. No other being contains all knowledge, always judges righteously, always speaks appropriate and measured words, always succeeds in the plans He makes, never speaks untruth, loves all for their good, and gives of Himself so that His creation will be blessed. How incredible is our God! Truly it would be impossible for us to imitate Him perfectly. Yet, as His children, shouldn’t we want to be more and more like the perfect Father we love so dearly? Certainly we should. Just like the child whose feet grow more and more with years, our spiritual feet will grow more and more into the beautiful feet of the one who brought good news upon the mountains (Isaiah 52:7).
One might astutely inquire, “What characteristics does God desire that we imitate?” Turning back to the Ephesian letter, Paul points out in Ephesians 4:17-32 three overarching traits our God desires of His children.
In verses 17 through 24, we are encouraged to pursue true righteousness and holiness. Instead of allowing ourselves to pursue the lusts of the flesh leading to sin, we are to be pure in mind and right in action. We should not be deceitful or greedy, weaseling our way into power or money. This is not the way of God our Father. His nature is righteous (Psalm 23:3). He is holy (Revelation 4:8). He has no deceitful lust within him. There is no greediness in our Father. Let us become honest individuals always seeking to do what is right before God.
Verses 25 through 29 convey that our life should be led by truth. The things we speak ought to be based on truth. One cannot reflect the image of God by lying (John 17:17). We must be truthful in our endeavors. It is not proper for the child of God to steal his bread. Is God a thief? How much of a price was He willing to pay for the items of His desire (1 Corinthians 6:20). The Christian must ensure that the words proceeding from his or her lips express the truth of God dwelling within them (Matthew 12:34).
Finally, we see in verses 31 through 32 that we must learn to be gentle and forgiving. God’s love is pointed to as the standard for our lives. Did we deserve forgiveness? Romans 5:8-10 explain that we were enemies of God when He chose to redeem us. How humbling to think that God paid so dearly for our souls, and yet we have difficulty forgiving the cashier for sacking the milk with the bread. Jesus told His disciples in John 13:35, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” When we love each other by eagerly forgiving beyond seventy times seven, when our love expresses a gentle spirit toward one another, then we are proclaiming to the world, “I belong to God Almighty. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.”
Imitation expresses a longing to be closer to the one we admire. Just as the little boy wearing his dad’s shoes proves a desire to be more like his dad, so our imitation of God proves to Him our longing to be like Him in glory (1 John 3:2). How are you doing in your imitation of our Father? Is your life a reflection of His beautiful life? Are we constantly expressing our desire to be more and more like our Father? May our lives prove the goodness and perfectness of God’s will. May we shine forth as His blessed children, eagerly awaiting our home with Him.