In the first half of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul tells us how to think by showing us who God is, who we are apart from Him, and who we can be in Him. Paul wraps up the first half of his letter with a spectacular prayer asking for spiritual strength.
Paul prays according to the riches of God’s glory, not ours. Paul prays that we’ll be strengthened with the Spirit’s power, not ours. Paul prays that we be rooted and grounded in Christ’s love, not our own. And Paul prays asking that we be filled with God’s fullness, not our own. And after spending three chapters telling us how to think, Paul says that God’s power can accomplish far more than we can even begin to think. Then Paul moves on and tells us how to behave.
Imitate God. Imitate God as beloved children. What does that mean? How does that look?
When I was a parent to young kids—toddlers and preschoolers—I would have answered it by referring to the sweetness with which my children imitated Rob and I. They’d watch closely, listen carefully, and try as hard as possible to emulate what they observed.
Now they’re older. They know more. They’ve had more life experience.
For example, they used to be sweetly compliant in regards to how I got them from Point A to Point B. They allowed themselves to be strapped in car-seats and would happily go where I took them no questions asked. They watched quietly and imitated precisely as I steered, braked, signaled, and turned. They pretended to do the same from the back seat. (Okay, so my memory might just be white-washing over the times they writhed like wet fish and I could barely even get them into their car-seats. Or the times they pulled at their buckles, arched their backs, and screamed like banshees while I tried to maintain enough focus to stay on the road. Or the times they peppered me with countless questions of where we were going, how much longer, are we there yet. Maybe absence does make the heart grow fonder . . . whatever the case, on with my point.)
While they used to more or less trust me for the ride, now, with the benefit of copious age and life experience (note some sarcasm) they like to give me useful tips as I drive.
Mom, seriously, we’re going to be late if you don’t drive faster than this. Nobody follows speed-limits these days. Mom, it doesn’t matter if you’re perfectly straight in this parking spot, you don’t have to back up and straighten out a hundred times.
In fact, just this past weekend I took one of my boys to an out-of-town basketball tournament in a vehicle I don’t normally drive (worse yet, one with no back-up camera). After several long and admittedly painful parking attempts, a little curb jumping, and some very slow reverse maneuvering, I was actually driving. Until I wasn’t. I accidentally stalled the vehicle in the middle of the street. This was apparently my son’s final straw. This child who has never driven a vehicle in his entire life had the audacity to roll his eyes and state that he could do a better job than I could.
As soon as I had the truck moving again I told him, “Boy, you don’t know what you don’t know.”
I was a little annoyed with him, but wonder if we might do the same thing with God.
We might imitate God as beloved children for a time. We watch closely, we listen carefully, we believe that He knows what we don’t so we trust Him for those life blanks we can’t fill in. But then, after we have the benefit of time and experience, suddenly we’re telling God what He doesn’t know.
When He says no unwholesome talk, we say a little bit of it makes us relatable and relevant. When He says we should watch out for impurity, empty words, deceptive thoughts, and illusive alliances, we argue that we need to have open minds and that it’s okay to take a little of this and a little of that and blend it together to soften the rough edges of His words. He says it’s dangerous to walk in the dark and calls us to walk in the light, we say life is shades of grey. Following all the rules might have made sense when we were young and didn’t know better, but we’ve got time and experience under our belts and God needs our help to relate to our world.
I would never have taken my almost eleven year old up on his suggestion that he be allowed to drive. It would be dangerous and unloving of me to do so.
He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.
God will not take us up on our suggestions either. We don’t know what we don’t know. Our job is to imitate Him as beloved children. He loves us with perfect love and knows what we need better than we do. Because of what Christ Jesus did for us on the cross, we can trust His love. We can trust that what He tells us to do is for our good and His glory. Resting securely in our position as God’s beloved children, we’re moved to imitate Him from a place of joyful submission and loving trust. We pursue purity, holiness, right thinking, submission, unity and thanksgiving because we’re imitating Him and we know this is the way to make the best use of our time.
Will it be easy? No! There will be some curb jumping, slow maneuvering, and even times we flat-out stall along the way. But if we’re rooted and grounded in His power and wisdom and love, if we’re filled with the fullness of God instead of ourselves, more than we could ask or imagine will be accomplished for our good and His glory.
It’s not going to be easy—there’s a war being waged. We’re in a spiritual battle so we’re going to need spiritual strength. But we’re not fighting alone or in our own strength, or wisdom, or fullness. We’re in Christ, we’re part of God’s spiritual family, so we have access to the full, unlimited storehouse of God’s spiritual resources.