Every parent will eventually experience that moment. It is always meant as a complement, but it doesn’t always land that way. It’s the moment someone says of your child, “They are just like you!” In a split second, both a flood of pride and a flood of concern hits your soul. This could be a great thing! This could be a terrible thing!
Children don’t wake up in the morning striving to imitate their parents. They don’t put it on their calendar or on their to-do list. They don’t enroll in a program helping them to imitate their parents. It happens naturally. Children pick up the language, mannerisms, voice inflection, moods, and morality of their parents.
It happens without anyone noticing or trying. It happens because of proximity and love. The things and people we love and to which we are in close proximity, we will begin to naturally imitate. This is especially true of children.
This is why Paul writes to the Ephesians, “Follow God’s example (literally: imitate God), therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God”(Ephesians 5:1-2).
One might counter this command with, “How can we possibly imitate God? Isn’t that impossible?”
Scripture wouldn’t have commanded it if it was impossible. We have the Holy Spirit in us, empowering us to live as Jesus lived. When we write off this command as impossible, we belittle the full potential of “Christ in you, the hope of glory”(Colossians 1:27).
The key here is what Paul writes immediately after the command to “imitate God.” He suggests we do it “as dearly loved children.” This is about being secure in our identity as sons and daughters of the King of kings and Lord of lords. It’s not about striving. It’s less about effort and more about intimacy. Remember, children imitate their parents not because they make a strategic plan but because of proximity and love. This is an invitation to experience proximity to the Father. It’s an invitation to experience the love of the Father.
Consider the possibility that the ONLY way to imitate God is “as dearly loved children.” With faith like a child, drawing nearer and nearer to the Father, as we spend time with Him, we will naturally become like Him. We will find our capacity to love increase. Sacrifice will start to feel like a joy. We will see in others what we couldn’t see before…before we began to see through the eyes of the Father. Our lives will become a fragrant offering.