The New King James Version translates Ephesians 5:1 as “Therefore be imitators of God.” And I respond, “Really? Can Paul be serious?” Just what is he saying? There is no way I can imitate God and speak worlds into existence. There is no way I can be a source of life by saying, “Lazarus, (or whoever) come forth.” God is morally perfect. I cannot be so other than by allowing Jesus to stand in my stead. Part of the problem here is I haven’t considered the milieu of Ephesians 5. It’s dangerous to lift any text or sentence out of its context. If we look carefully at Ephesians 5 Paul is telling us to walk in love for others. Even that is difficult. To love one’s friends is one thing but to love one’s enemies is another.
Often we hear people say, “I only attack people who attack me.” And that is the reason the world is in and has been in a mess for all of recorded history. The eye for an eye Old Testament philosophy leads us into a nowhere future of just more of the same. Paul goes on in Ephesians 5, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.”
The wrath of God Paul is speaking of is not a vengeful God pouncing upon us when we do evil or just plain stupid things. God’s wrath is passive. He merely allows us the tragedy of reaping the fruit of what we sowed. If when attacked we return the gesture with a turned cheek and a “I’m sorry I agitated you” we will then begin being imitators of God just as Paul counseled us.
Written by Roger Bothwell on June 1, 2016
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