“Imitators of God”
4: 25So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. 26Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27and do not make room for the devil. 28Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. 29Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. 31Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 2and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 4: 25- 5:2, NRSV)
he idea of our daring to “imitate God” seems totally impossible and sacrilegious. I did go to college with a young man who seemed to think he was god. He strutted around like a god. The girls even called him “Adonis.” However, it is silly to think of anybody being a god but in our text Saint Paul encourages us to “be imitators of God.”
Our imitating God is like a Little League baseball player imitating Chipper Jones. There is no way that a ten year old can hit, run and catch like the seasoned veteran All-Star Atlanta Braves veteran baseball player but by trying to achieve the impossible the little boy will be a better player than he would have been if he had no role model.
When we read that St. Paul encourages us to “…be imitators of God…” we must remember to read the next three words. “… “as beloved children.” (v.5:1 above)
As God’s children we all need worthy heroes.
During my first year in seminary we had every fifth Sunday off and did not have to drive down to the Manchester Circuit. One Sunday morning we attended Grace Church in downtown Atlanta to hear Charles Allen. The church was filled and there was an air of excitement. The choir sang as if they were inspired. I punched Marilyn softly and said, “If I had a Choir like that I could preach like Charlie Allen, she whispered back, “if you could preach like Dr. Allen you would have a choir like that!” He was my hero.
We would sometimes slip off to hear Dr. Pierce Harris and Dr. Robert Ozment on Sunday nights at downtown Atlanta’s First Methodist. The Sanctuary would be packed and there would be an air of anticipation. Pierce Harris and Bob Ozment were both preaching as close to Jesus as they could and they became my “Chipper Jones.”
We have to be careful who we choose for role models. Some folks do not realize that the person that they are trying to pattern their life after is some reprobate boss or President of the company that they work for. Or, we sometimes select mediocre players for heroes and we are perhaps close to reaching their low level of mediocrity and are somewhat flying in circles going no where. But God is always worthy of imitation.
Our text gives us a clue as to where we can locate persons who could be our worthy role models. In these first few verses Paul speaks of “our neighbors” and “fellow members” of the local church. Isn’t it true that the folks in your Sunday School Class are the folks you trust the most? They love you, even though they are aware of your faults and failures. It is among our Christian friends and neighbors that we find the role models and heroes who are worthy to be praised.
With our fellow believers we hold in common our deep faith in a shared Gospel. We are blessed with fellow believers in Jesus Christ all around. I have seen lots of young people grow up patterning their lives and marriages after the saints at church.
Paul tells us to change our ways of living. “Put away falsehood and speak the truth.” “Be angry but do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Married couples know how critical mutual forgiveness is. We are encouraged to quit our old bad habits.
Another of my preacher heroes is Sam Jones. He quit the life of a drunkard and became a Methodist preacher. He was a lawyer and had no formal theological training, but he picked it up along the way. He became America’s most famous preacher during the late 1800’s. One of the many stories from his long life was that during one Evangelistic Crusade he was invited to have Sunday Dinner with a farm family. The wife had told Sam that her husband was “bad to drink.” After dinner Sam said to the husband, “Let us take a walk across that cotton patch and talk a bit. As they walked along Sam Jones said, “I hear you’re bad to drink.” The big farmer said, “Yes I am!” Sam replied simply, “Well you can quit that.” And the story goes that the fellow never took another drink. You see, like the Apostle Paul, Sam Jones believed that a person could quit doing bad things and start living a new life. We can be transformed by the new power of God’s Spirit at work within us.
“…and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” This is the key that unlocks the door to release the new person in us, to allow us to become Imitators of God! Even if we are still Little Leaguers.
sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor