Tuesday, June 18, 2013

An Imitation of God - Part 1

Just so you know, my previous post went without a sequel for significantly longer than I intended. You'll just have to be content with knowing that my only consistency (apart from, I hope, a love for the Lord and commitment to His truth) is my inconsistency. If I promise a blog post is coming soon, then I probably mean soon in the long-term sense - a month might even be too much to ask. *sigh* Now, I know so many of you are hanging on every word I say and that these ginormous gaps of time in between my posts are driving you insane, but...

Oh, whatever. Who am I kidding? :)

But that's enough drabble about me. Instead, I want to get on with sharing thoughts that have been whispering at the gateways of my head and heart, gently and yet fervently begging for release.

The topic? Christ-likness.

I know, I know. You're ready to tune me out (in a really loving way, of course; instead of angrily clicking the big red "x" in the corner of your screen, you're going to skim the rest of this text, nod respectfully at the Scripture interspersed throughout, and go on your merry way) but please. Don't. You should know by now that I hate using cliches (especially the churchy kind) unless there's a very, very, VERY good reason to do so, and this situation is no different.

I'm not going to talk about loving your neighbor. I'm not going to touch on self-control or anger management. Instead, I'd like to navigate into potentially-dangerous waters and suggest that there's  passage of Scripture that has been woefully overlooked by the body of Christ in general. I want to step on toes, because the painful pinching might make you pull back and examine just exactly why your toesies didn't appreciate being tread upon. Discomfort usually indicates that something is not quite right, you know, so I ask this of you: if it hurts, let it. And then find out why. Don't shove your awkward or sensitive or downright irritated attitude into a corner to melt back into your psyche; instead, ask God to speak in a way that you can't ignore. Ask Him to help you to listen and process and, if it's necessary, change.

And for goodness sake, don't do it for me. What I have to say, ultimately, will never matter. The Word of God is your standard and declares an unchanging truth that will condemn or confirm whether you like it or not. Be compelled by His truth. Do it because He's worth it.

Originally, I was going to try to pack everything into one blog post, but I don't want to overload your mental circuitry or your spiritual senses. I want to take it one bit at a time - so yes, this will be a series of sorts - and give you just enough to manageably ponder before moving on. :)

So, then, with my characteristic disclaimer out of the way: here we go.

The topic, again: Christ-likness.

The passage: Ephesians 5. Specifically, verses 1-20.

(Yes, and now you know why I won't dump it all on you right now. You're welcome.)

Let's just look at the first two verses for starters. Easy enough, right?

"Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered Himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God."
Right away, we encounter a command. Not a suggestion - no sirree, nothing like that. The verb form here is pretty adamant: "Imitate God..." Not, "think about imitating..." or "what if you imitated..." but point-blank, no-punches-pulled: "Imitate God."

My personal inclination is to conclude that this phrase is something I'm supposed to do and I'd better get it done - or, at the very least, try. For example, when I was growing up under my parents' authority, their word was law, and strange and unsual punishments followed the child who dared ignore even the subtlest hints. (Well, so maybe not "strange" and "unsual," but try explaining the purpose of writing "I will take out the garbage" fifty times - or more - to a ten-year-old...) This environment quickly taught me the importance of immediate, total, unconditional obedience.

But why do I care about imitating God? Why *should* I care? In my parents' house, I cared about obeying their commands because my state of health was on the line, but that setting is seemingly worlds away from this scenario. Okay, yes, God is good and loving and kind and just and righteous and holy, but guess what? I was birthed into sin, and my flesh and the Holy Spirit in me still war against one another (Galatians 5:17). Naturally, I don't want anything to do with goodness and love and justice and righteousness and certainly not holiness, and it's only by the grace of God that I pursue any of those things now. My sin-infected flesh shudders at the thought of imitating God. The idea is too contrary to my natural disposition. Heaven - errr, hell, I suppose - forbid!

But then, there is grace! Redemption! I've been set free from the law of sin and death by the blood of Jesus Christ (Romans 7:24-25), and the desire to imitate God is present in me.

And how should I imitate God?

"...in everything..."

Fo' real? Everything?

(Hey, I didn't write that. Don't look at me. Well, I mean, keep reading the blog post, but quit rolling your eyes at me. It's impolite.)

But really, Paul again makes it clear: down to the tiniest detail of our lives, we are to imitate God.



Non-negotiable. Straight-up. Everything is everything, and if you can't reconcile that with your reality, then you probably need to get a new one. Just a suggestion.

This imitation of Christ extends to our conversation. Our entertainment (music, movies, books...Tumblr, Facebook, YouTube...). Our thoughts. Our spending habits. Our work ethic.

(I think you get the picture.)

If you're alive and you do it, then God says, "Imitate Me in it." And that means maybe you won't do some of the things you're doing now, because you're coming face-to-face with the reality that you just *can't* imitate God while doing it.

More on that in a later post.

"But why should I worry about imitating God? Why, Hannah? You asked that question twelve crazy paragraphs ago, and you still haven't answered it."

Sorry, guys.

"Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His dear children..." And not just "His children."

His dear children.

Your heavenly Daddy loves you like crazy. No cliches, no warm fuzzies, just truth. He loved you so much that He sent Jesus Christ, Who, as Paul continues to share, "offered Himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God" to the pay the ultimate penalty for our sin and bring us near to God (Ephesians 2:13).

The nature of God, in and of itself, is enough to compell us to imitate Him: truth, goodness, love, purity, beauty, holiness, justice. In reality, He is reason enough. But, since we're a short-sighted bunch of people and need further motivation, gratitude and love will do nicely as well. A heart truly thankful for the sacrifice Jesus offered on the cross and a mind captured by the love that sent Him there will find the desire to imitate God as nothing less than the only appropriate response.

We imitate because we are loved. We imitate because we love in return (1 John 4:9). We imitate because of the sacrifice that was made for us. We imitate as living sacrifices, seeking to be holy and acceptable to God (Romans 12:1).

To look at that love, at the privilege we have of being called God's dear children, and then choose to turn and pursue your own agenda - well, that's your choice. But based on the Word of God and the commands clearly stated, I'd say it's a choice you should probably weigh pretty carefully.

Thanks for reading; keep an eye out for part two, where we look at just exactly what Paul had in mind when he challenged us to "imitate God."
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