Sharing the Fragrance of Christ
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us, and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2
Parents are a child’s first teachers. They watch us intently and then learn from our example; every move we make, every look we display, every action we take, every word we speak. I can even see it in my newborn grandson. Now that he is opening his eyes a little more (!), he just looks and looks, and studies everything and everyone around him; again, especially his mom and dad.
In other words, children are fantastic mimics. They imitate what they see and hear. That’s how they learn, of course.
A woman once invited some guests to dinner. At the table, she turned to her six-year-old daughter and said, “Would you like to say the blessing?” The daughter, who was a little shy, replied, “I wouldn’t know what to say.” Her mom answered, “Just say what you hear Mommy say.” So the little girl bowed her head and said, “Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner!”
The writer of Ephesians, as I shared, encouraged his readers – early Christians – to “be imitators of God, as beloved children…” If God is our heavenly Father, then we are God’s children, and it is only natural, it’s only logical, that – as God’s children – we should be imitators of God. That we should mimic and copy everything we see and hear from God. That’s how we learn too.
So what is it, then, that we see and hear from God, and we should imitate and mimic in our own lives? Most of all, it is love. But it is also patience and kindness and forgiveness and respect. Over and over again in the Old Testament, we read that God is “slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
I mention this only because it seems to me that we are living in a time where there seems to be precious little love, and patience, and kindness, and forgiveness, and respect. We live in a time when we all seem instead to be increasingly quick to anger, and utterly lacking in steadfast, or enduring, love. Especially in our civil discourse. Especially as we relate to our neighbors and fellow citizens.
As Christians, is this how we are called to live and behave? Does such behavior mimic or imitate the God who is always slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love in response to us and our failings? If not, is there a better way? The writer of Ephesians thinks that there is. He says: “…live in love, as Christ loved us, and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”