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Walk in Love – Ephesians 5:1-7

Recently I attended a dinner where the after-dinner speaker was a very good impersonator of George W. Bush. He looked much like the former president and did a good routine, adopting Dubya’s way of speaking and characteristic mannerisms. Perhaps one reason I enjoyed it so much was that this impersonation was sympathetic, not a derisive caricature.

After a lengthy “in character” impersonation, the speaker dropped the role and spoke seriously for several minutes. Near the end of this, he said something to this effect:

George W. Bush is not here, but I am sure I fooled at least some of you for a while. There is one, though, who is here – Jesus Christ. I was the “face” of George W. to you, and we are to be the face of Jesus to the world around us. Paul told us how to do this. “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life 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

The passage the speaker quoted continues:

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person – such a man is an idolater – has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. – Ephesians 5:3-7

Paul contrasts the selfish lusts of the Pagans with the sacrificial, agape love Jesus has for us. This is the love that Jesus said would identify His disciples (John 13:34-35). A few verses later, He added, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you” (John 15:9). What the world calls love is a very bad caricature of the real thing. We, however, are to model the real thing by wearing the face of Jesus as a genuine part of our lives.

How Can We Do This?

The source of this love is in God Himself. When we yield ourselves to Him as His servants to obey Him (cf. Romans 6:17), He pours His love into our hearts by His Holy Spirit (see Romans 5:5). As John put it, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Paul began this section of Scripture by charging us to be imitators (impersonators) of God “as dearly loved children” (Ephesians 5:1). Only as we realize the great love God has for us will we be able to reflect His love so that others can see it in us. I really believe one reason so many of God’s children are so churlish and testy is that they have no real concept of the sort of love God has for them.

When we see God as the stern Father who demands our perfect obedience – or perfect understanding of veiled inferences and silences of the Scriptures – we will expect the same of others. When we come to appreciate the depth of His love for us, we will be able to forgive each other just as God has forgiven us in Christ (see the last verse of Ephesians 4, which immediately precedes Ephesians 5:1).

Our change from the life of Pagan-love to the life of God’s love in us, then, will come only as we do as Paul instructs us in 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 –

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

There is an interesting divergence in the translations of the word the NIV gives as reflect in this passage. In fact, the NIV itself has contemplate as an alternate translation in the footnote. The KJV uses behold the Lord’s glory. I like to think of this in terms of looking into a mirror (as James compares a man who hears the Word of God without doing it to a man who looks at his own face in a mirror and immediately goes away, forgetting what he has seen – James 1:23-24). A mirror reflects, but it can only reflect what it “beholds.”

We are to mirror Jesus. That is how people see His face in us. We can “mirror” Him only as we “behold” Him. If we do not behold Him, by fixing our eyes and our hearts on Him, people will not see Him in us. If we do behold Him so that people see His reflection in our lives, something else happens as well. His Spirit within us will transform us into His image “with ever-increasing glory.

This process of transformation is incomplete until we become like Him because we see Him as He is when He appears in glory (1 John 3:1-3). Until then, our imitation of God is imperfect because our love is imperfect, though constantly improving as we more and more abandon the worldly lusts of the flesh to walk in the way of the Spirit of God and of Christ.

As the chorus to a song I love puts it,

Turn your eyes upon Jesus;

Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of the world will grow strangely dim,

In the light of His glory and grace.

NEXT: Walk in Light – Ephesians 5:8-14

PREVIOUS: Do Not Grieve the Spirit – Ephesians 4:25-32


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