Ephesians 5:1-2. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Do you have any idea how loved you are by God? Me either. It’s a hard reality to grasp. Perfectly loved all the time. No more no less. No matter what. For better or worse. Without end and without condition. Loved in spite of how well we perform. Loved through every mountain top and every valley. It sounds too good to be true.
But it’s not.
Do you remember Paul’s prayer for us back in Ephesians 3? He prayed that we would be rooted and grounded in love. That love would be our very life source. And he prayed that we might know the love of Christ. That we are loved beyond understanding. Beyond all the experiences of this life. Beyond death even.
And do you remember back to chapter 1? Paul told us that God loves us so much that he adopted us as his sons and daughters. He even predestined our adoption. Before we did anything to deserve it (have we ever done anything to deserve it?). Even when we were still enemies of God, God loved us.
How do we know for sure that God loves us? Look at our verses again. We know God loves us because Christ gave himself as a sacrifice for us. And beyond that, because God has made us his beloved children. There is no greater love than this. Love that would choose to die sacrificially, but then also choose to live forever sacrificially uniting his life to ours. Rescue AND redemption. Atonement AND adoption. This is the love of God for us.
Now imitate God and walk in this love.
Woah. That sure sounds daunting. How do we do that?
Our instinct is to turn this into another law. Another standard that we have to live up to. Another ladder to climb. Imitate God’s love becomes a guilt trip rather than a glorious grace. An when we fail to see it as grace, it will drive us either toward despair or toward pride.
- Despair: “Imitate God? Who can do that? I don’t love like God. Oh no, I’m in trouble.”
- Pride: “Imitate God? I got this. I will work so hard at imitating God and be the best at it.”
But when we turn it into a law we miss the whole point of our union with Christ. Imitate God’s love is not to be accomplished from law, it’s to be accomplished from life. Christ is our sacrifice, our offering to God on our behalf. What does that mean? It means no more law keeping. No ladder to climb. No performance to be judged. It is finished. He did it. He imitated God. He loved. He walked. For us. Imitating God and walking in his love is no longer a standard to maintain. Like Abraham walking in the promised land, it is our new covenant promise to claim.
This is what makes new covenant commands different from old covenant commands – they’re already obeyed. BY Jesus. Now we obey them FROM Jesus. When we are commanded to imitate God’s love here’s the most important thing to remember: God’s love for us in and through the indwelling life of Christ is the power for our walk in love.
So what do we do when we read a command like the one we’re looking at today – imitate God’s love? Do we let it steal God’s love from us (which it cannot)? Do we suddenly make God’s love conditional? NO! We courageously claim the New Covenant promise that we are loved – beloved children, that Christ loved and gave himself for.
Christian, you are God’s beloved child. That’s the promise. Claim it. What little kid doesn’t try to be like their mom or dad? Holding their hand in the parking lot. Dressing up like them. Copying the way they talk, and eat, and play, and work. This imitation is a natural part of life. We watch what mom or dad do, and then we copy it.
And here is the love that we are copying – and gave himself up for us.
The love of God that we are imitating, that we are walking in, is the love of the cross. The love of self-sacrifice. Of self-giving. For the good of others. For the salvation of others. As our Savior taught us, this is not the love of the “pagans” who love only those who will love them back. This is loving an enemy even. Good Samaritan love. Love as a living sacrifice. This kind of cruciform love that is a fragrant offering to God.
“To live is Christ” means you are loved more dearly and deeply than you could ever imagine. Now, in Christ, you have nothing to lose and nothing to gain. By faith you’ve received the sacrificial love of Christ, now by faith you can walk in that same love. And that smells good to God.
Do you feel the love of God in your life?
You in Christ
How can you know that you are loved today?
Christ in you
How might walking in love make your day look different today?
Playlist: Walk in love