In his letter to the Philippians, Paul tells readers to follow his example and to the Corinthians he writes, imitate me. [Philippians 3:17 and 1 Corinthians 4:16] This strikes me as bold and audacious, arrogant and presumptuous.
This seemingly brash statement, however, is illuminated when he later instructs readers to imitate him as he imitates Jesus. [1 Corinthians 11:1] I’m certainly more comfortable with that. After all, Jesus provides us with the ultimate example, which we are wise to follow.
To take this line of thinking one more step, Jesus asserts that he “can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing.” [John 5:19] Therefore, he is imitating God the Father.
So, when we encounter the command in Ephesians 5:1 to “be imitators of God” — who we have never seen — we are not taken aback. Paul imitates Jesus, Jesus imitates God, and there are ample examples about the both of them in the Bible. So through Jesus and Paul, we know God’s character and are thus able to imitate him.
This begs the question, is our life lived as one worthy of being imitated?