How Not to be Like God

The screen on the shed window sags against the metal side. It’s not the shed with my birdseed, so I know the damage is not the squirrel’s doing. I immediately know who to approach. “Why?” I ask my six year old.

The clever girl.
The clever girl.

“We were trying to be like God, ” she tells me. “God destroyed the world with a flood, and we destroyed the screen.”

Sophisticated, I think, and a clever attempt to get out of trouble, but terrible theology. I’ve got some theological training to do. My husband pipes up with an answer, thankfully, and I ruminate on what it means to be like God.

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life 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)

As dearly loved children. The phrase jumps out at me because I’m still thinking of what my dearly loved children have done. Not just the screen but those proud looks they give me when they disobey, the laughs that flit through the room when they run in disobedience. I have to remind myself sometimes that these children are dearly loved. Like me, by my Father.

We are not called to be like him while watching him from a distance. The call to be like him comes from our relationship with him. We’re dearly loved children who’ve received the gift of Christ’s sacrifice–a sacrifice that has torn the curtain and ushered us into the holy of holies. We are face to face with God. No need to pull out our binoculars and squint from a distance, trying to extract what it is exactly we’re supposed to imitate.

Live a life of love. Don’t live out some ethereal idea of “love”. A life of love implies the personifying of Christ’s character within us every day. I love how Paul qualifies for us what that life of love is, “Just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

So the life of love we imitate is 1) unselfish (compared to love being whatever makes you feel good) 2) glorifying to God (our purpose is external, not something we “discover” within us) , and 3) An offering, a sacrifice (meaning, we give up something, we submit).

And thus, Romans 12:1-2 and Galatians 5:22ff flesh out this life of love. Imitation takes us beyond ourselves and can only happen when the Spirit inhabits us and empowers us. How fragrant and pleasing this offering of imitation is to the Lord.

Be blessed, friends, in your imitation of him today. And no destroying anything, please.

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