Whom Do You Imitate Most?

Ephesians 5:1–2 tells us—
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (NIV).

I really think this little sentence is the key to all relationships, especially the often difficult relationship between a husband and wife. I do a lot of counseling for couples having marriage problems of one kind or another. Often those relationship struggles involve a deep-seated anger and frustration with the other, either justifiably or unjustifiably. Usually a little of both.

The reality is you can’t have a marriage this side of heaven without each partner sinning against the other on a regular basis. So rather than trying to point blame at the other because we think we deserve better from them (which is so easy to do in a marriage because blame is something both partners truly do bear), instead, try relationships God’s way. Try being an “imitator of God” in your marriage (and in all your relationships for that matter).

Try this—“live a life of love” instead of payback and withdrawing and unkindness and anger and bitterness and resentment and impatience and frustration and hurt and being easily offended. Be an imitator of God in how you treat your husband or wife (or kids). Rather than being angry and withdrawing or lashing out because you’re not getting the love from them you think you deserve, instead, believe the gospel.

Believe that in Christ you are already God’s “dearly loved” child who will inherit everything in the kingdom of God. Although you most certainly do not deserve it, God dearly loves you and has already proven that love by dying on the cross for you in Christ. He has made you a co-heir with Christ of everything! You didn’t deserve that kind of love, nor that kind of “offering and sacrifice to God” on your behalf. But God was/is merciful toward you and did it anyway, because he “lives a life of love” toward those who don’t deserve it. That’s what God is like.

We didn’t (and don’t) love God the way he deserves, but he loves us anyway and sacrificed for us anyway and “gave himself up for us” anyway. So do the same for your undeserving wife or husband—“be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

The word “therefore” here is key, because it links this command with the preceding verse that says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (4:32; NIV).

Your only reason not to be this way toward your wife or husband (or anyone) is because you don’t really believe the gospel. You don’t believe all that God has done for you in Christ. The degree you believe you yourself are undeserving of God forgiving you is the degree you too will “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

So be an imitator of God. Be kind to someone who doesn’t deserve your kindness, like your husband or wife. Be an imitator of God—be compassionate to someone who is not loving you the way you think you deserve, like your husband or wife. Be an imitator of God and forgive someone who doesn’t deserve your forgiveness. Be an imitator of God and live a life of love toward your wife or husband when they are being unloving to you. Do so “as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God,” just as Christ did for you.

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