Imitate Your Heavenly Father

By Mark D. Roberts

May 23, 2019

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 5:1-2


When he was growing up, my son Nathan often heard people say, “Oh, you’re so much like your dad.” I heard similar things. One person in my church said, “Oh my gosh! Nathan is a mini-Mark.” His resemblance to me wasn’t simply a matter of appearance, especially since Nathan had red hair and I had brown hair when he was young. It was based on the fact that in many ways Nathan spoke and acted much as I did. Now that Nathan lives out of my shadow, when I meet people in his sphere of influence, they’ll often say to me, “Oh, you are so much like Nathan.” I rather enjoy this turning of the tables.

3 year old child in front of birthday pancakesChildren imitate their parents, both intentionally and unintentionally. They learn how to act and speak by watching their parents and doing what they see and hear. This should also be true in our relationship with our Heavenly Father. In Ephesians 5:1 we read, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children.” This imperative could be translated more literally, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as beloved children.”

Of course, as our Father in heaven, God could demand our imitation as a matter of sheer obedience. In the first-century Roman world, fathers had supreme authority over their children, even when they grew up. Paul could well have written, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as children who must obey their father.” But instead Ephesians 5:1 highlights a dimension of fatherhood that was minimized in Greco-Roman culture: love. Our imitation of our Heavenly Father is a response not to his sovereignty over us but to his love for us. We are to be like God because we are his “dearly loved children.”

Now, of course it’s true that we should be like God because it’s the right thing to do. But, if you’re like me, you can focus too much on the rightness of imitating God and too little on the love of God that inspires imitation. Ephesians 5:1 implies that if I want to be more like God I should allow God’s love to fill my mind and pervade my heart. The more I receive the love of God for me and the more I know deep down that I am God’s beloved child, the more I will be motivated and empowered to imitate him.

Something to Think About:

Can you say without hesitation, “Yes, I am God’s beloved child”?

What helps you to understand God’s love for you?

What helps you to experience God’s love for you?

Can you think of times in your life when God’s love motivated you to be like God?

Something to Do:

Talk with someone you trust—perhaps a close friend, spouse, or small group partner—about your experience of God’s love. Learn more about the experience of the other person. Pray for each other that you might grow in your experience of God’s love.


Gracious God, thank you for loving me, not because I have done anything to earn your love, but because you are Love and have chosen by grace to love me.

Forgive me, Heavenly Father, for the ways I ignore or minimize your love for me. Forgive me for the times I turn the life of discipleship into a fruitless exercise of my will rather than a grace-filled reception of your love. Help me to believe that I am your beloved child and that nothing in heaven or earth can separate me from your love. May your love transform me so that I might indeed be an imitator of you in what I do and say. Amen.


Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
Are You Trying to Earn God’s Love?

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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