Eph. 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 2 and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
The Apostle Paul wanted the believers of Ephesus to continue to grow in their faith. He knew that a life without discipleship would result in stagnation; a life which certainly would not be reflective of Christ in this world. To be a disciple meant to follow Christ — to imitate him and to live like him. Christ’s nature of holy love exuded from every action recorded for us in the word. Therefore to imitate Christ meant to live a life of love and just as Jesus gave himself up for us, our imitation of Christ should result in our lives being a “fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” That’s what it means to live a life of love.
Back in the day we spent a lot of time talking about Sunday School! In my tradition this was one of the great founding features of our church. Not until the 1970’s did our church begin to record morning worship attendance. The health of the church had always been determined by Sunday School attendance.
Maybe we had something right there! Not that we would go back and do Sunday School like we did in the 1960’s, but perhaps, the emphasis on Sunday School, or discipleship as the primary work of the church was not all that wrong. As our lives become filled with more and more to do we have cut the amount of time that we devote to church - and, I believe, to imitation of Christ. It’s much more convenient to simply come to a worship service that doesn’t require any personal accountability than to meet with a small group.
What would it mean for the church to rediscover discipleship, imitation of Christ, and living a life of love? It won’t happen if it’s not a priority and we aren't intentional. This week I attended a meeting where the people were wrestling with the concept of missional communities; intentional groups that are focused on discipleship, serving one another and living lives reflect Christ to others. It's getting back to this idea of imitating Christ that Paul was talking about.
The secular world may talk about living in love but Christians ought to dominate the conversation because imitation of Christ will result in Christ’s love being spread everywhere we go. Remember, Jesus had said that the world would know his disciples by the way that they loved! Christ-centered love should dominate our lives, and this is genuinely revealed when that love points people to Christ — and never to us! And in this act, we come to a place of willing sacrifice for the sake of others. My life and my priorities are nothing in light of kingdom business. Jesus emptied himself of all his rights for you and me. We are called to a life of discipleship, of continual growth, as we reflect him everywhere we go.
Lord, please help me to know you more today than I did yesterday. Amen.
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