Be imitators of God as dear children, and walk in love, as Christ also has loved us… Ephesians 5.1-2
When I was just a little boy, my friends and I thought it would be fun to try to fly like Superman. We chose a nearby clay pit – a huge commercial digging site – for our attempt. The pit was about the size of a football field and roughly twenty to thirty feet deep. We took turns jumping off a ridge, yelling, a few feet from the bottom with our arms in front of us, and usually landing on all fours in the bull dozed clay. We did this a few times, climbing a little higher each time, Finally we had jumped off from the last available ridge in the cliff’s side and only the top of the pit was left. It was way up there. There was a discussion about who was going to try it. Somehow through the skillful negotiations that I was frequently involved in as a young boy, but for which I had not yet acquired much skill, my friends convinced me that I was the one who should go, and up to the top I went. Safely at the bottom, they shouted and coaxed me forward. I yelled and jumped and landed hard face down. I rolled over and I couldn’t breath because the breath had been knocked out of me, there was nothing I could do until I was able to breathe again. Finally, when I could breathe again, I was able to get up and laugh about it.
In this verse the Apostle Paul refers to us as “dearly loved children” dependent on the breath of God’s Spirit given to us in our Christian birth – that new and spiritual and second birth – without his Spirit we can do nothing of what he calls us to do. We know from the Genesis account of Adam and Eve that at the beginning of history, in an act of rebellion and coaxed by the devil, all of humanity, figuratively speaking, jumped off a cliff. We can’t laugh it off. The fall left us completely and morally ruined, disfigured in sin and without a hope (Rom.5.12-21). In Ephesians 2 we are told apart from him “you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” Apart from him we can only “follow the ways of the world” and are “children of wrath” ( 2:1-3). But our new birth in Christ gives us his Spirit – despite all temptation and manner of discouragement and suffering and our ongoing struggle with the reality of sin – with his Spirit we can both imitate him and creatively and joyfully live with one another in this world.
We imitate God and live this way because we are his children. And here is seen the critical and important difference between Christianity and mere morality: Morality is about being good for its own sake. Christians, however, are not called to be good simply for the sake of goodness. We are God’s children! This is about us belonging to him. Related to him. That is why we are to live this way. Notice the text, we are not just his children, we are his dear children. He loves you, you are dear to his heart. We are called to a child-like and willing assumption of Christ’s behavior and manner in this world. We are called to be imitators of God. We are in the world but without its impurity. We have been called to “walk” in love, because this is Christ’s way. The Christian faith does not call us to do something that is impossible such as flying like a bird. But we are called to walk, a means of advancing in our faith, step by step as we are taught by the Word and Spirit of God how to love and so every act of love towards one another becomes a step in the right direction.