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Imitate God: A Profound Command

Updated on October 7, 2012

An Illustration

It was a bitter cold morning. The sun peeking over the horizon could do nothing to chase the frosty chill away.

All alone, I was hunkered behind a make-do duck blind, my eyes moving to repeatedly scan for movement emerging from the gray skies. There was an almost perfect stillness in the air—the calm before the storm of winter would turn the page on autumn.

I’d been set up and settled in this remote spot for over an hour. The solitude found in waiting appealed to me—the quiet of nature spoke peace and comfort to those lonesome, craggy places in my soul.

I watched with a vigilance that bordered on obsession, marking every detail in my mind. The surroundings had a near forsaken feeling that was somehow beautiful and enchanting. Stark bare trees encircled the pond, their leafless limbs stretching upward like skeletal fingers reaching to scratch the sky.

The surface of the water was as smooth as ever imaginable. For the umpteenth time I glanced at the strings of decoys carefully arranged to mimic flocks of ducks. I knew the exact number, and just to be sure there were no lurkers who’d snuck in, did an automatic count.

It was then that it happened—the silence was broken by the faraway sound of my quarry on the wing. I heard them chattering back and forth in quacks before ever seeing them. I effortlessly worked the duck call with a deliberately honed expertise—to my ears it was a perfect impersonation.

My series of quack-quacks were answered by the real thing, and then a dozen ducks crested the top of the trees and angled in a sweeping arc to have a look at what appeared to be their kin sitting pretty.

They dipped low into range as an approving smile creased my lips—I thumbed the safety off the shotgun. I’d fooled them. My imitation of duck behavior was successful.

Here ends that story—it was told to help illustrate a profound command of Scripture that could be ignored or dismissed outright simply because of the seemingly impossibility of compliance. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul of Tarsus wrote a letter to the church at Ephesus, which contains at least one particularly difficult precept for us to worry over.

We may be tempted to slough it off, yet it is God’s Word, which means that it’s living, active, and fully relevant to believers in Jesus Christ nowadays. Give fresh, prayerful consideration to these words.

Ephesians 5:1-2 - NIV - 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.

Forgiveness & Love

According to the dictionary, imitate means: To follow or endeavor to follow as a model—to mimic; impersonate; resemble—to make a copy of; reproduce closely—to have or assume the appearance of; simulate.

God is omniscient, having the totality of knowledge—he sees around the corners and into the crevices of every circumstance. For us, the vast extent of what we do not know far outweighs the meager measure and confines of our comprehension.

God is omnipresent—he is not shackled by time and space. He is present everywhere at the same time. We can only be in one place at one time, and even then we can rapidly disengage or blank out so that for all intents and purposes we’re absent.

God is omnipotent, which means all-powerful—he reigns supreme in the universe and all authority ultimately belongs to him. When push comes to shove, we discover that despite all our strenuous efforts, we are stuck with extreme limitations—even the most powerful amongst us sooner or later learn their vigor and potency has severe constraints.

God is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent—and we are to be imitators of God? Imitating ducks is child’s play—imitating God, not so much. Is this phrasing a sick joke—is Paul setting us up to continually pace the treadmill of failure?

On the surface, perhaps that’s a legitimate query, but let’s dig a wee-bit deeper—let’s put the verses in context and look at ways we can actually shift application into gear. In the NIV the verse immediately preceding the cited passage reads - Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

The profound command is not about us striving to be omniscient, omnipresent or omnipotent. When we connect the dots it becomes radically uncomplicated—we are to imitate God in forgiveness and love. As God deals with us—in forgiveness and love that has no boundaries or restrictions—we are to deal with others. No whining about our feelings—no rising up in sanctimonious indignation to pathetically protect our perceived turf.

God offers an endless stream of grace to each of us—his compassions and mercies are new every morning. We are to freely receive all the blessings of grace, and then, with a direct intentionality we are to urgently and wholeheartedly pass it along to others.

Our vertical relationship with God of forgiveness and love is supposed to be modeled in our horizontal relationships with each other—we are to be living examples of God’s forgiveness and love.

Ephesians 5:1-2 - The Message

Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.

Do you ever start thinking,
"Lord, do I really have to
love these people? Oh, I 
can't take it any more?"
Do you ever want to peg out?
 does it ever let up?
 is the war ever over, Lord?
 when is it going to get easy?

Jesus said his yoke is easy,
 and his burden is light.
He never said there won't
be a yoke or burden
 but that's alright.

The yoke is going to hold you,
 and a burden's made to bear.
Lord, when the load gets heavy
on me, I know you'll be there;
I know you'll be there.

I tried to speak the truth in 
love today to someone walking
the wrong way; it fell on 
stony ground.
It seems the more I try to
follow you, the more the enemy
rages: he's not going to win.

I know you'll be there, I know
you'll be there.
    ~Larry & Pearl Brick~

Too Hard

Here’s an overwhelming reality—the onus is always on the individual. I am responsible—you are responsible.

Regardless of how often one is misunderstood, misrepresented, wrongly judged, unfairly characterized, or flat-out wronged, we each are too respond with forgiveness and love. There’s no loophole—despite what others say or how they treat us, it’s a compelling necessity for us to be generous in forgiveness and love.

When someone steps on our toes or pride, trashes us with innuendo, or gets up in our face to force feed us a drink from the vast well of their wisdom, the proper reaction is to smile softly—no matter how in the right we may be, we are to give away a bouquet of grace. Is that ever easy?

Not in my experience. The wake of my life is littered with the debris of failings in the area of forgiveness and love—in this I am not alone. To authentically imitate God in forgiveness and love is the foundational struggle for every believer.

In fact, a typical approach to the challenge of reproducing forgiveness and love in dicey relational happenings is to complain that it’s too hard a requirement—we consistently bail-out on the dictates of Scripture when stuff gets sticky or troublesome.

A League Of Their Own, the 1992 comedy-drama about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League that was started in 1943 at the height of World War II is a fine movie, with several memorable moments. There’s a terrific scene that exemplifies the all-too human capacity to toss in the towel when the going gets rough.

Dottie Hinson, played convincingly by Geena Davis, has had enough of the demands of baseball and the road—the expectations placed on her because of her leadership and ability has become wearisome. She is leaving the team to go home. The no-nonsense manager of the team, Jimmy Dugan, portrayed by Tom Hanks confronts her.

After a back and forth dialog in which Dottie minimizes her choice and attempts to explain herself, she finally excuses her decision to quit by saying, “It just got too hard.”

Jimmy Dugan is incredulous. His face flinches as he leans in close to give it to her straight, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”

We likely do not verbalize it about forgiveness and love, but more times than we want to acknowledge our actions say it loud and clear: It just got too hard.

It just got too hard to forgive—it just got too hard to love—it just got too hard to do the right thing in this situation. And everyone would cut me some slack if they knew the person that’s giving me fits—no one has any idea how difficult it is to forgive, love, and deal with so and so. To which God answers: Do you have any idea how difficult it is to deal with you? Ah, there it is:As God deals with us—in forgiveness and love that has no boundaries or restrictions—we are to deal with others.

Is living forgiveness & love authentically the foundational struggle for every believer?

See results

Mysterious, Mystical, Supernatural

Living forgiveness and love in the nitty-gritty real world can be messy and problematic—BUT, it’s in the process of endeavoring to do so that we grow and mature; it’s inside the practice of extending forgiveness and love to others that more and more we become imitators of God. And most assuredly, it’s hard—however, the hard is what makes it great.

There’s another admonition from Paul to his friends at Philippi, which in my understanding of Scripture is a matrix principle to be integrated into all aspects of our faith experience. We need to seek to thoroughly apply the all-time theologian’s counsel to continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

To be imitators of God means to work at forgiveness and love. Within the dynamics of this process something mysterious, mystical, supernatural takes place—we exert effort and God earnestly works in us, so that little by little, bit by bit we model his forgiveness and love to each other.

We are to become habitual practitioners of forgiveness and love. In doing so, the profound command finds an ongoing—though oft-times shaky—fulfillment in a world desperate for the majesty of God’s forgiveness and love. Be imitators of God. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.


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    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      5 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Thank you, kellyteam. Much appreciated.

    • kellyteam profile image


      5 years ago from Michigan

      This hub is awesome. Not only awesome it is full of the truth. A great message that must be spread to all. Thumbs up awesome, beautiful and a share. Keep on hubbing!

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Sunnie Day - Thank you for the affirmation. Much appreciated. Blessings.

    • profile image

      Sunnie Day 

      7 years ago

      Beautiful Hub..Forgiveness and Love the two most powerful words in the world..How long do we do it? Until we see Jesus!


      beautiful, awesome, and up!

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      AM - Thank you. That is a great scene. It fit really easy into my stream of thinking on these verses. Blessings.

    • A M Werner profile image

      Allen Werner 

      7 years ago from West Allis

      Great words of wisdom Ken. I love your line "When we connect the dots it becomes radically uncomplicated." The allusion to that wonderful scene in that great movie is perfect. Forgiving can be hard but that is what makes it so great when it is accomplished. Peace

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      heart4theword - You're welcome. Thanks for stopping in. Glad you enjoyed the visit. Blessings.

    • heart4theword profile image


      7 years ago from hub

      Omniscient, omnipresent or omnipotent, these words have always been confusing to me. Thank you for this study:)

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Dave - You're welcome. Thank you for you always encouraging comments. Much appreciated.

    • Dave Mathews profile image

      Dave Mathews 

      7 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

      Brother Ken what beautiful lessons of love and forgiveness. They were nicely illustrated through bothe the opening story and the incorporation of the movie excerpts as well. Thank you.

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      mtsi1098 - Thank you for your thoughtful observations & comments. Blessings & much encouragement to you.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      It is important to rely on the faith when things seem down and it is important to forgive...the perspective and the draw of positive in these times is, in my opinion, based off of a strong foundation of faith and love unconditionally is no problem for me, to forgive is no problem for me...sometimes it is difficult to forget though...thanks

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      UlrikeGrace - Thank you so much for your kindness & generosity in encouragement. Much appreciated. Peace & blessings to you.

    • UlrikeGrace profile image


      7 years ago from Canada

      Ken...great Hub and a memorable one. I love the way you tied both hunting and baseball (my personal favorite) into this. I do want to say you have a most unique way with words and I admire your word crafting as in this example:

      Quote[Stark bare trees encircled the pond, their leafless limbs stretching upward like skeletal fingers reaching to scratch the sky.]end Quote

      I love this Ken...what a mental picture!

      As for the rest absolutely and Amen. No one else to speak except God and yet I catch myself too often attempting to imitate people! Why? When they are every bit a falible as I am! Yet God sent Jesus to show us how it is really done and doable. I appreciated your straight forward approach to this, and with the Holy Spirit in us and working through us, imitating our Father is a very doable thing. Blessings to you my brother, Ulrike Grace

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      crystolite - Thank you for your kind words. They're much appreciated. Blessings.

    • crystolite profile image


      7 years ago from Houston TX

      Nice article.Every hubbers really need to comment on this particular article because it really has a lot of wisdom to gain from.God is perfect example worth of emulation.

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Micky Dee - Thanks for stopping in & sharing. The line, "there's no crying in baseball" is from the movie cited. And yes, I'm sure Buckner shed some tears after the grounder went through the wicket of his legs. Blessings.

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 

      7 years ago

      Unfortunately or fortunately yes, there is crying in baseball and everything. I've seen Lou Gehrig all choked up. But that's life. Bill Buckner, one of the best first basemen ever, had to move from Boston. I'm sure that if tears didn't fall - he was made of stone. "Is living forgiveness & love authentically the foundational struggle for every believer?" Should be! The actual foundation is the Golden Rule. God bless.

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      FaithDream - Thanks--appreciate your words. And you're right, there's no crying in baseball.

    • FaithDream profile image


      7 years ago from (Midwest) USA

      Excellant article. I like that you captured the essence in your take on A League of Their Own. With your comment, .. the all-too human capacity to toss in the towel when the going gets rough." I like that!

      There's no crying in baseball. :)

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      chikotel4real - Thank you.

    • chikotel4real profile image


      7 years ago

      dis is good


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