I remember one time as my family was driving to church, my attempt to be on time was thwarted by someone going the speed limit. Apparently, they didn’t know that speed limits don’t apply on Sunday mornings and that all major thoroughfares are automatically turned into the autobahn. Anyway, I muttered something under my breath as I tried to maneuver around the other responsible driver and my 7 year old daughter asked one of those questions that we as parents never forget. She asked, “Daddy, is that guy an idiot?”. My wife started laughing. I couldn’t imagine where my daughter came up with that kind of idea. Of course I know where she came up with it. She had heard her father call other people idiots while driving numerous times and she wanted to just confirm that what she was thinking what I was thinking.
Any parent or anyone that has spent time with a small child for any length of time knows the propensity for them to imitate our character traits. Often times, the flaws. We can all remember the first curse word our children uttered and us frantically searching for someone or something to blame it on. We all remember when our child reacted poorly to a situation; slamming a door, throwing a toy, yelling at a younger sibling, the list goes on. And usually after some thought and conviction we realized that they learned exactly how to react to those situations by watching and imitating us.
Another example is language. Why does a child that grows up with parents that have a southern accent not develop a Midwestern accent? Why does a child that grows up in Montreal not develop a Boston accent? There is an age at which a child has an amazing capacity to imitate and learn from their surroundings. Studies have been done on the brain of a child during their early years. At that age, a child has the ability to soak up amazing amounts of information from their surroundings. They can easily learn multiple languages intuitively and not memorized. They can absorb, understand and repeat multiple physical tasks and mannerisms instinctively; even sign language.
Ephesians 5 starts “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” And then continues a few verses later, “Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” We have all heard that the greatest form of flattery is imitation. At the heart of a child imitating their parents is flattery; but not in a bad sense. A child wants to be like their parents and by imitating them is showing them adulation.
I don’t think it is a mistake that Paul included in the first sentence of Ephesians 5 to imitate God “as beloved children.” I think he knew how children desire to imitate their parents. But what if you as a parent were perfect and the only thing your child could imitate was perfection. There were no outside influences, friends or other family that they could imitate? Would they imitate your perfection? Sadly, no. We understand that man is sinful at the core. There is a reason why we don’t have to teach our children to throw fits or steal toys. They know that all by themselves. However, we have been reborn. We are a new creation. We have been given a new heart. Spiritually, we have returned to childhood. Scripture constantly refers to us as children. How we are to have faith, how we are to relate to our Father, how we are born again. One of the best ways we have to glorify God, our Father, is to look for ways to imitate Him.
This week as we live our lives as adults, look for ways to glorify God by acting like a child imitating their Father.
Soli Deo Gloria