Ephesians 5:1 states: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.”
Now, let me ask you a question: What do you see?
When YOU read those eight words, what were you most impressed by? Close your eyes for a moment and try to recall its message.
If you are familiar with the New Testament, you might have recognized the passage and were probably most aware of the command to imitate God, both because a command to imitate God is astonishing and because it’s not something most of us would think we have mastered. Of course, we realize that there are other words in the verse—”therefore” and “as beloved children”—but because we think we have already understood or mastered the truth that God forgave us (4:32, to which “therefore” points), and that we are his beloved children, we gloss over them. The “therefore” and “as beloved children” are white noise to our spiritual ears. We filter these words out; they have become irrelevant. And when that happens, it changes the message of the verse and, ultimately, of the entire Bible.
When all we see in Ephesians 5:1 is the command to imitate God, our thoughts will turn inward onto ourselves, our efforts, and our record. If we fancy ourselves serious Christians and all we see in this verse is our duty, then we will probably spend a few moments thinking that we need to be more conscientious about obedience. Oh, yes, yes, I can see that I need to try harder at imitating God. Or, if we are painfully aware of our ongoing failure to be godly, despair will flood our hearts and we will feel confused and overwhelmed by such a command. Imitate God? How could I ever possibly do that? I’m already such a failure! However, if you are someone who helps others apply Scripture to their lives, you might immediately think, “Now, there’s a verse I could use with so-and-so!” thereby deflecting the command off of yourself.
You see, if certain concepts in Scripture have become white noise to us, it will be all too easy to read a verse like Ephesians 5:1 and see only its obligations. I, too, can see myself using the verse to implement those attributes in my daily life. God is holy, merciful, righteous and just. This month I will concentrate on being holy. I’ll research what it means and then I’ll try to implement it in my life. Next month I’ll. . . Because I’m like you, if you asked me what I saw in that verse I would tell you, “We’re called to imitate God.”
Our propensity to disregard the familiar can be so very detrimental to our faith. When the rest of the verse, “therefore” and “as beloved children,” has become white noise to our spiritual ears, we will quickly gloss over it without stopping to consider why it’s there or what it’s meant to tell us. We won’t think to ask why the Holy Spirit positioned such a daunting command in the context of such familiar words. Instead, we will be quick to strip out the familiar and boil down Scripture to a tidy little take-away list of do’s and don’ts.
What actually gets relegated to this position of irrelevance nothing less than the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, nothing less than Jesus’ accomplishments through his incarnation, sinless life, death, resurrection, and ascension. Because we are so familiar with the gospel message, it gets shoved to the periphery of our spiritual consciousness and becomes nothing more than words to be remembered at Christmas and Easter. The truths represented by “therefore” and “as beloved children” are like the constant din of the Interstate 15—unless someone draws your attention to them, they just don’t register.
Quoted from Fitzpatrick, E., & Johnson, D. E. (2009). Counsel from the Cross: connecting broken people to the love of Christ. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, pp. 23-25.