Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Imitators of God

Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:

Be my strong refuge, to which I may resort continually; you have given the commandment to save me. - Psalm 71:3 (NKJV)

Paul knelt down with them all and prayed.There was much weeping among them all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, grieving especially because of what he had said, that they would not see him again. Then they brought him to the ship. - Acts 20:36-38

Two-year reading texts: Psalm 83:9-12; Isaiah 29; Ephesians 4:29-5:7

Today I'm struck by a couple of phrases from Ephesians 5. Following a passage about God's grace-filled action in calling and equipping all the saints for ministry (Ephesians 4:10-16, one of my favorites!), Paul has moved on to urge us to live lives that reflect this grace and calling. A few example phrases: put away your former way of life ... be renewed in the spirit of your minds ... clothe yourselves with the new self ... put away falsehood ... speak the truth ... be angry but do not sin ... speak only what is useful for building up ... be kind to one another ...

And early in Ephesians 5, "be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us."

It's astounding to think that we, ordinary people, can be imitators of God. Of course we wouldn't succeed in this by ourselves! But because of God's grace, poured out into our lives, with the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are led by God's power, not our own, toward this goal. We will never get there perfectly. But God is moving us in that direction.

Today's psalm and the verses from Acts 20 remind me that this call to be "imitators of God" is lived out in the middle of ordinary, daily human life. God is a "strong refuge," the foundation of our new life, to whom we can return continually. And the best way to see godliness in our lives is to see how God's Spirit, working through us, can transform the lives of other people. As Paul went from being a persecutor of Christians to an equipper and supporter, he knew that it was not his own strength, but God's strength working through him, that successfully communicated the good news of Christ to others, and helped them likewise become followers of Christ. The story of Acts 20 tells of Paul's farewell from people of the Ephesian church, the same church to which the letter is addressed. We can see how the love and gratitude he speaks of has taken root and grown.

For you and me today, God's word is the same, and the process God uses is the same. We have been given the gift of grace and love, mercy and forgiveness, new life and new hope in Christ. Now through that grace, God works within us to transform us, shedding the unhelpful aspects of the old life and putting on the Christ-like clothing of the new life, holy and wholly devoted to making love known and making love real in the lives of others. We will never do it perfectly, but in our own small ways, we can become imitators of God. And we can know that those little echos and reflections of God's love are true and real, and worthy of thanks!

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