It is a fact that children learn a great deal of important things from their parents. We imitate them, or strive not to imitate them, depending on our experience growing up. Either way, we are strongly affected by what we see our mothers and fathers do and not do. The way a parent handles their child’s heart is arguably the greatest influence in the development of that person’s perspective on life and relationships, behaviors, and fears.
In Ephesians 5, Paul started off using this depiction of a parent-child relationship as an example that we can connect with. He wanted the readers to embrace their role as children of God so that we could be open to learning from Him. However, right there in the first verse we can get off track quickly if we miss some key truths.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2, ESV)
God is different than our earthly fathers and mothers.
While there is no doubt that many parents display the image of God in wondrous ways, no one is perfect. Therefore, all parents fail and send messages to their children that distort the true image of our Father in heaven. These failures can lead to false beliefs that cause us to view things from a marred perspective. For instance, a child whose father was not present may tend to view God as being distant, uninvolved, and uncaring. The reason for such a view of Him is that a child in that circumstance has had painful experiences in life with a key relationship that typically sets a primary example in understanding what other relationships are supposed to be like. This leaves the child lacking in experiences to see God in any way other than in the image of the father they experienced as a child: one who was absent. It also sends a message regarding how that child should view himself or herself. There’s a wound inflicted that says something to the effect of “you are not worth my time and attention”.
It is important to read passages in the Bible with an open mind.
Reading a passage such as Ephesians 5:1-2 may spark some concern for those of us who struggle with our image of God. This concern is even more pronounced for those of us who have not yet realized the false image we have of Him due to past hurt and lies we have been told. Therefore, it is amazingly helpful to go into it with an open mind, willing to allow God to reveal the truth about who He is. It will be helpful to share our thoughts on this with trusted others who can be a way for Him to speak to us and offer new experiences to replace our old, wound-filled perspectives on Him and what we see when we gaze into a mirror.
Thankfully, Paul does not leave us in a position where we must rely strictly on our past to determine what to look for in our God as we dabble with the reality of “being His child”. In Verse 2, he mentions “walk(ing) in love, as Christ loved us”. This phrase points to an all-important image of God. God loves us. He is the perfect parent that loves us unconditionally. He is consistent in His love, never having an “off day” and swaying from it. All of his actions regarding us are motivated by His love for us.
I love how “The Message” translations says it:
Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.
Love, love, love. It’s all about His love.
The result of us embracing this amazing love that He has for us is indicated when Paul says “And walk in love” in the ESV translation. He does not mean for us to strive hard to love when our own “love tank” is empty. Walking in love means living a life of being loved! Walking in His love, we get filled to the brim with it. Then, we get to offer it to others around us, and it’s not a chore. He created us in a way that we thrive on being loved and loving each other. It’s a huge part of who we are as His children. The Message translation above actually holds off to the end to make the point that we shouldn’t try to start out with loving others without first embracing the love He is offering us (notice the “love like that” statement at the end).
Live a life of being loved first, then loving others.
So, let’s spend time embracing who we are. Ephesians 5:1 says to imitate God…as beloved children. It doesn’t say do your best to be like God. We just don’t have it in us to do that! What we CAN do, however, is embrace His love for us and let Him work in and through us. Realizing the need for something outside of us to save us, just a little bit of humility brings us to our knees before Christ. By His grace we are saved through that faith in Him. Our identity is founded in Jesus. He is in us and we are in Him. We are God’s children. Imitating Him begins with embracing His love for us. We will not walk perfectly in it, but a little bit goes a long way. As much as we can, let’s surrender ourselves over to Him and let Him love us. Let’s make “being loved” our primary focus. When we don’t feel it, it doesn’t mean He is failing to love us. There’s times in this difficult life that we just do not experience the reality of Him loving us. He loves us often when we are failing to receive it. It’s okay. He doesn’t give up on us. He keeps pursuing us and wooing us into receiving His love. Let’s pray that we can see how He is loving us right here, right now. It may be in a way that you will not receive it unless you surrender your idea of what it should look like.
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