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The Rev. Bryn MacPhail: “Imitating God” (Ephesians 5:1-21)

May 29, 2009

Have you ever thought about that saying, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”?  I suppose I have pondered for myself whether or not we really seek to imitate God, or if we seek to imitate other people instead.  The Rev. Bryn MacPhail of St. Giles Kingsway Church in Toronto helps us think about this with his sermon Imitating God which is based on Ephesians 5:1-21.  I found this to be an edifying message, as Rev. MacPhail talks about our imitating God in showing love:

How are Christians to live? Paul’s answer is that we are to live like Jesus—“be imitators of God”, he says.

James Montgomery Boice, commenting on this verse, refers to this as the “standard beyond which there is no other” (Boice, Ephesians, 171). Alexander Maclaren calls this exhortation “the sum of all duty”.

You will not be surprised to hear me say that there are many attributes of God, which are impossible to imitate. Theologians refer to these as the noncommunicable attributes of God. In spite of our best efforts, we will never succeed in becoming omnipotent, omniscient, or omnipresent.

What Paul chiefly has in mind here is the imitation of God’s love: “be imitators of God . . . and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us”.

First, we note the constancy with which we must heed Paul’s command. The word “walk” implies ongoing action. As we seek to imitate the loving character of God, we must do so as a way of life. Demonstrations of love are not to be reserved simply for occasions of great necessity, but rather, love should mark all that we do.

This is what will help set the Christian apart from the non-Christian. The non-Christian will love when it suits him; the non-Christian will love when it is an advantage to him. The Christian, by contrast, is exhorted to “walk in love”. For the Christian, love should not come and recede like the waves of an ocean. But rather, for the Christian love should be a perpetual fountain.

To say the least, this is a powerful truth: imagine how our churches and our very lives would be transformed if we all showed love in this manner, that manner in which our Lord, that Fount of every blessing, has shown by His example.  May we indeed all be “imitators of Christ.”

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