Ephesians 4:32-5:1, NIV
“Be kind and compassionate to each other, 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.”
One of our favourite restaurants, in a city where we once lived, looked nothing from the outside. But the thing that attracted us to this restaurant was that the place was always full of fresh flowers, whether we went in spring, summer, autumn or winter. Their fragrance was one of the first welcomes we received. Imitation or artificial flowers were never part of the décor.
To imitate means to mimic or to copy and imitation can seem real from a distance. But however life-like artificial flowers may seem at a distance there’s never any fragrance attached to them, and when we touch them they don’t feel soft like real flowers.
When I think of the word ‘imitation’ I don’t usually have very positive feelings. However, imitation is a biblical word. In our text today Paul tells the Ephesians to be imitators of God because they are His dearly loved children, made in His likeness. They’re to consider the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, when He gave Himself for them. That sacrifice rose as a fragrant offering to God. We’re told to imitate what Jesus did on the cross, and as we do so, our lives will have a fragrance about them that will please the Lord. It will mark us out as real and not artificial.
The way we imitate our Lord Jesus, of course, is to live as He lived. The evidence of whether or not this is reality in our lives is found in our text for today, ‘Be kind and compassionate to each other, forgiving each other’. Kindness and compassion were qualities that were demonstrated in the life of Jesus and they’re marks of genuine love.
However, the deciding factor of being an imitator of God is the genuineness of our forgiveness to those who don’t deserve to be forgiven. ‘Forgive each other, just as in Christ God forgave you’. Maybe today you’re struggling because someone has hurt you. In your own strength you will struggle, but when you ask God for the grace to forgive He’ll enable you to do so. After all, it’s only because God has a rich storehouse of grace that He forgives us. Ask God to make you an imitator of Him today.
Prayer: Father God, thank You for Your word and for the Holy Spirit who makes it reality in my life. Please give me grace to live as one of Your dearly loved children, learning how to forgive as You have forgiven me. May the fragrance of Your presence spill over wherever I go today. Amen.