Give Yourself Away
Therefore become imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]; and walk continually in love [that is, value one another—practice empathy and compassion, unselfishly seeking the best for others], just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God [slain for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance.
In a sense, all of us give ourselves away and smell like something to the people around us every day, but what do we give, and what do we smell like? In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul sets the standard very high. God wants us to give ourselves to others in the same way Jesus gave Himself to us unreservedly-with kindness, and amazing love- taking great risks of being misunderstood and rejected.
When we think about those traits and the impact they have on others, it’s easy to envision a huge, fragrant, beautiful bouquet of flowers filling the room with their wonderful scent. All our senses are drawn to the bouquet, and we delight in it, not rushing along to check off the next thing on our to-do lists. God wants each of us to have that kind of impact on people around us because of the sweetness and love we show them.
Is it possible to be that loving? Only if we imitate God the way a dearly loved child imitates his or her parents. The source of our love for others is our experience of the deep, rich, transforming love of God. We can look at it from another angle too: If we don’t demonstrate much love for people around us, perhaps we need to experience more of God’s love to fill our tanks so they overflow in love for those around us.
The secret to a life of fulfillment is learning to give yourself away.
God is all about giving, especially giving Himself. Why? Because of His love for humanity. That one little verse in the Gospel of John sums it up: For God so loved the world He gave His Only Son…… The love God had for us moved Him give His best. Paul tells us in Romans:
But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Through the power of love, we became the recipients of the grace of God and the blessings of God. It seems that He delights in giving us good things. How many stories are there in the Gospels that tell of Christ giving Himself for others? Think about the blond, the lame, the lepers, the woman at the well, Zachaus who climbed the sycamore tree, the demon possessed, and the children, to name a few that Christ showed love and compassion toward. In Ephesians we read that Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a an offering and a sacrifice to God for us.This incredible display of love became a sweet fragrance. More than the aroma of flowers on a warm summer day as we enjoy the fragrance they give off. Somehow that fragrance gives us a sense of satisfaction that all is well with us.
Paul turns his attention to us and instructs us to become imitators of Christ. That’s the true call to being Christian. We’re not called to some religious exercise that only the well-trained can perform, neither are we called to some superior role as though somehow we have been elevated above others. Being an imitator isn’t some attempt to become righteous through our own effort. In Philippians we are instructed to “have the same mind in you as was in Christ Jesus….” We are called to think like Christ, to live like Christ, and to act like Christ. That’s a tall order but God has given us help to do just that through the power of the Holy Spirit in the same way as He gave the Spirit to Christ here on earth. Scripture tells us that Christ did none of His work by Himself but under instructions from the Father and through the power of the Holy Spirit. We, too, have been given the same access to this as Christ. To imitate Christ requires us to empty ourselves just as He emptied Himself. To imitate Christ requires us to humble ourselves and submit in full obedience to the Father just as Christ did. To imitate Christ requires us to go as far as God leads us and to work as much as God gives us and to listen and follow every instruction God provides.
Paul says this isn’t a strain to do since we are like dear children who so love and admire their parents that they try to imitate them. This desire of imitation stems from great respect and desire to be just like those who are imitated. And when we come to truly know Christ, he is so amazingly wonderful that it’s easy to desire to become just like Him.
It was at Antioch that the followers of Jesus were first called Christians which in the Greek is literally “little Christs” because the people observed that the behavior and attitude of those followers imitated Christ. Peter and John, as they were being tried by the Sanhedrin so had patterned their lives after Christ that Luke records these words: “they took note of them that they had been with Christ. Later on Paul would declare that those who identified themselves as followers of Peter or Apollos or even Paul himself were wrong. The only true believers were followers of Christ and Christ was not divided. Paul also goes on to say, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” That statement ought to be what every Christian can say. “Watch me as I follow Christ and imitate my behavior,” may on the surface appear to be egotistical. There will be those who say, “Well I’m not comfortable saying that because I’m certainly not perfect.” So my question then is: If I couldn’t live exactly as you live, talk as you talk, or do as you do and go to heaven then what makes you think you can? I don’t mean that to be condemning or confusing but if God is allowing you to live like you do without conviction then it ought to be ok for me to live the same way. God doesn’t have multiple standards. We are all held to the same standard.
Yes God gives us grace and is patient with us but Christ didn’t die for us to leave us still in our sins and there is no practice of sin in heaven.
What do you think people say about you as to whether they see Christ at work in you? Do they notice that you, too, have been with Jesus? Is it your joy and delight to imitate Christ?
We certainly live in a broken world filled with hurting people, many of whom have been or become disappointed with the church. Perhaps it’s time for a spiritual awakening in which every Christian actively participates. Perhaps we as Christians ought to ask ourselves if we are imitators of Christ and remember that He touched and drew near to God many who had also been just as disillusioned with religion as those today. Somehow He reached across walls, barriers, and anything that separated people from God. He even dared to violate religious traditions that were more of a burden than a connection with God. And the NT church certainly broke multiple barriers as it encompassed Samaritans and Gentiles as these were received into the church. Dare we imitate Christ this way?
Dr. John Thompson