The Clumping Church
Imagine you walk into a room and a conversation has been going for some time. You listen to a sentence, maybe two, and then you interject your thoughts on the matter. The odds of you saying something out of context is extremely high.
It’s not that hard for me to imagine because I have this nasty habit of making assumptions and I’ve done that more often than I’d care to admit.
For much of my Christian life, Ephesians 5:1 was a verse gave rise to feelings of guilt and inadequacy. Reading the words “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children” without knowing how it fit into the previous four chapters of “conversation” left me on a religious pendulum , swinging from “I got this!!” to “Who can do this???”
Being an imitator of God is a tall order and reading it in isolation from from it’s gracious context sounds both daunting and exhausting: “Wake up. Try to be as loving and wise as God. Repeat.”
If however, we read this verse in the context of the apostle Paul’s entire ‘conversation’ with Ephesus, we find that this verse (and the rest of the passage that follows) isn’t exhausting – it’s exhilarating. In the first 3 chapters, Paul focused entirely on what the gospel IS. In the last 3 chapters, he shifts and begins to focus on what that gospel DOES.
What the gospel is …
The gospel is the liberating announcement that in grace, God provided everything He requires from you, FOR you in Christ. The gospel announcement scandalously declares that us sinners who are united to Christ by faith are called righteous. As God’s adopted children, we have a spiritual inheritance that is assured on the basis of Christ’s work, totally apart from our work. aka … salvation by Christ alone.
What the gospel does …
Simply put, we were saved from something, for something. We were saved from sin, for our Saviour. As a result of God’s scandalous, rescuing grace, we are now His adopted kids whose hearts are being lovingly changed by His sanctifying reforming, grace.
To borrow from Luther’s 1539 treatise On The Councils and The Church, “we cannot grant the premise of grace and deny it’s conclusion.” Good news: God’s rescuing grace has a reforming trajectory.
Christ justified us in grace so that God could be our Father and now the Spirit of Christ is sanctifying us by grace so that more and more we imitate our Father.
Our imitation of God is always imperfect because we’re sinners and always increasing because we’re united to Christ, our righteousness.
Our imitation of God is not driven by guilt, but by gratitude.
This is the trajectory of grace. We’re like children who want to be like our loving, gracious Father – so we put on His shoes and clump around. The bible calls this grace-driven clumping, ‘obedience to Christ.’
We clump, church.
Sure, we all struggle with our sin and trip and fall all over ourselves, but at the end of the day, we really do want to be like our Dad.
The grace that rescues, reforms. What does that look like?
More and more, over the course of our lives, we want to enjoy & glorify the One who gave us His absolute best when we were at our absolute worst.
Christ loved God the Father perfectly and obeyed God the Father perfectly on your behalf. Therefore, our imitation of God does not earn anything through our obedience that He hasn’t already freely given us by His grace.
Here’s a real life illustration to the point Paul was making to Ephesus. Julia is one of the kids at Redeemer. She really missed her dad when he was away on a trip for work. She entertained her family one day by putting on her dad’s clothes and clumping around the house for the day. Her imitation was driven by love & affection. The love she had for her father and the yearning in her little heart to be with him drove her to imitate him. She wasn’t hoping her dad would hear about her imitation and respond with love & acceptance. Her imitation was from acceptance – not for it.
Christ’s love & grace toward us is not simply a MODEL that instructs our new life it is the MOTIVE that propels our new life.
That’s why Paul’s letter doesn’t begin by presenting Christ as an example of how not to sin – it presents Christ as the One who absolved you of your sin.
The call to imitate God has a gracious context: we’re God’s kids now. The grace, the love and the closeness of our Father is what compels us to clump around in His shoes. Christ has already satisfied Him. He already accepts us. Therefore our imitation flows freely from gratitude and not guilt.
Celebrate His grace, church.
Rest in the announcement of the gospel: your sin has been absolved. Past. Present. Future.
Enjoy God & clump around.