My four-year-old son’s first words the other day, at 6:30 in the morning, standing next to my husband’s side of the bed, “Dad, when we going to mow?” He loves to mow–my son, that is. He loves to work alongside his father. He also loves to work alongside his sister, much to her frustration. What she does, he copies. About every day, I hear her complain, “Mom, why does he always do what I do?” Because, I try to explain, we learn by imitation. We are wired to copy others, and when we are small, we do that indiscriminately.
We are followers–of something. The question is, what? As we mature from baby to child to adult, we gain more independence and choose what we imitate.
That’s why Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:1 are so important, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children…”
We are made in God’s image, so how better to learn how to portray that image than to copy the real thing? Sin pulls on us from the inside, seeks to draw us away from manifesting that image in its pure form. The world tries to tell us who to imitate: sports heroes, Hollywood, professors, the “in” crowd, rich people…or whoever. Isn’t that the crunch of advertising–you need to live like this, do this, be like this.
What are we imitating?
When we come to Christ, we become God’s dearly loved children. Dearly loved children know who they are loved by, and they seek to love that person back by imitating them. Like my son, who knows he is loved by his father, and wants to be like him.
But imitation is hard work. That’s where the Holy Spirit comes in. We cannot, by our own power, live that life of imitation that God requires of us. Our eyes slip to the world, and our habits quickly follow. We must be drawn back, again and again, to Christ, to Scripture.
We will imitate something; we will follow something. We might prize independence, but we are never truly independent of each other. We are made in such a way as to be influenced by others. Thus, Joshua’s charge to Israel, “Choose this day who you will serve,” is also a charge for us.
Choose this day who you will imitate. If you imitate the ways of this world, you worship and serve the prince of this world. If you imitate God, you will serve and worship him.