The apostle Paul urges us to be imitators of God, our heavenly Father. But how are we to imitate a God we cannot see? Are we to dress like Jesus’ dressed, or does this admonition go much deeper?
What’s at the Core
Quite simply, the goal of every Christian is to become more Christlike—after all, the very word “Christian” denotes “a Christ follower.” Paul tells us, “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children” (Eph. 5:1). We should heed his exhortation and earnestly desire to be like Jesus in every way. Paul also writes, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). When I think about this, I wonder exactly what Paul meant by “imitate.” Does this mean that we should wear the same style toga and sandals that Jesus wore? Does this mean we should only eat kosher foods?
In fact, I think it is obvious that Paul is speaking about following Jesus’ example in terms of his mission, values, motivation, priorities, thinking, teaching, and attitude. In other words, being imitators of Christ is something that stems from the inner core of our being. This occurs when who we are on the inside begins to be transformed as we become more like him and have his heart and mind. The internal change in turn is reflected in the way we speak, think, and act.
The crucial component we need to understand is that imitating Christ begins with developing a strong spiritual core. If we simply try to imitate Christ’s external behavior—being kind, compassionate, and merciful without strengthening our spiritual core—then we risk missing out on the very process that makes us Christlike. We end up acting like a Christian sometimes, but not truly being a Christian at all times.
Think about Jesus: His actions stemmed from who he was. The doing part flowed naturally from Jesus being authentically Jesus. This being stemmed from his spiritual core. In other words, Jesus did not try to act like anything he was not. Therefore, if we are to be imitators of Christ, we need to stop trying to act like Christians (external actions) and instead focus on being a Christian at our core (internal transformation). When this becomes our focus, we will discover that it’s not difficult to act like a Christian, because we simply will be one. Period.
Point to Ponder
It’s easy to act like a Christian when you are at church. But who are you for the rest of the week? Has your encounter with Christ transformed you at your core? Do you know that God wants to be actively involved in every aspect of your life?