Spitting Image of Dad
My Dad, My Hero
When did dad stop being your hero? When did you first notice your dad’s flaws and shortcomings? When did you first realize that dad was far from perfect and that the ideal we had of him as little ones he could not live up to?
For me it was somewhere around 11 or 12.
Certainly for the first ten years of my life my dad was my
everything and my hero.
He was this strong protector who was always there when I needed him. He was a teller of jokes and lover of God. This man would do anything for his boys, his “buwe”. This man was taller than any of us and always stood by our mom.
This was a man who would take us camping, on long walks or take us along on his jobsites or farm chores.
My dad, my hero. That was who he was in the first ten years of my life.
But then something shifted. I can’t recall any specific events, but at some point I began to notice his flaws and failures (I will spare you the details).
The day came when he wasn’t that tall and invincible anymore. In fact the day came when I towered over him and saw him for the smallness that my juvenile and immature mind saw him to be.
To my shame, I have to admit that for me it took decades to shake this thing away from me. My brothers had a far easier time honoring and respecting our dad than I did.
Then when he died, he died too young and too fast for me to have had my final words with him. I’m not sure that I would have been in the place where I could have seen him for the hero that he truly was throughout his life.
Now in my 50’s I have come full circle. What I wouldn’t give to have my dad around! What I wouldn’t do to hear his guidance and wisdom. He would be 78 today had he lived beyond his 63.
I would tell him what a hero he was in taking his family from a little village in Germany to Toronto when he was 37 and his boys were 13, 12 and 10.
To go to a place far from his beloved home and family among a people whose ways he didn’t understand and language he never did learn. And in doing so, to provide his boys with the chance to come to know Jesus and have the opportunity to make something in life.
My dad, my hero. For those magical years, those first 10 years, he was the man whose feet walked the ground I worshiped.
Imitation is the Best Form of Flattery
I’m not sure if we ever imitated or mimicked him, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we did. He was our hero.
Speaking of imitating and looking like someone. The older my brother Tom gets the more he looks like my dad. To look at Tom is to see my dad. He has very similar features, and more of his personality than I have. I have too much Olbrich in me to ever look like my dad, with Tom having way more Rausch in him.
You know what they say about imitation, don’t you? It is the sincerest form of flattery, meaning it’s flattering to that person when someone intimates them.
That brings me this morning to the One I really want to imitate.
The one who is my superhero and who has never disappointed me or let me down, and that is of course none other than my Heavenly Father.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then I want flatter my Heavenly Father by mimicking his every move.
What would you say if I were to tell you that there is nothing our Heavenly Father would love more than to see us be imitators of him and that to be in his family means to become little imitators of Him.
This is what Paul unwraps for the Ephesian family. While it’s amazing to see so many born into God’s family, Paul doesn’t let it sit there. He doesn’t want thousands of babies whose stinky diapers need constant changing.
Paul’s dream for the Ephesian family is that they would all grow up by becoming imitators of their Heavenly Father.
The Mimic of God
The key verse in today’s passage is Eph. 5:1 “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love”
The word therefore becomes a key word because it links this idea of being imitators to what was just stated in the passage. This all had to do with how the Father was wanting us to live our lives:
“You were created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Eph. 4:24-32
The word therefore in Eph. 5:1 brings the idea of being imitators of God back to this list of do’s and don’ts and does so in a very nice and precise definition of being imitators of God.
Therefore literally means in one word as if to suggest the extensive list of do’s and don’ts can be summarized in one word: imitators.
To live out Eph. 4:24-32 is to imitate God. The word imitator comes from the Greek word mimetai from which we get the English word mimic.
You know what it means to mimic someone? Do as he does. Speak as she speaks. Act as he acts.
Our Heavenly Father’s greatest desire is that we would mimic him in every way. To act like him, to think like him, to react like him, to speak like him and to do like him.
He wants us in his spitting image. What an outrageous claim to lay upon our lives! For us to be like him. That when you see us, you see him.
No wonder the Expository Bible Commentary calls this “a staggering conception”!
Do you realize that very few fathers would want their children to become like them, and that a good number of kids also don’t want to become like their dads?
Too many mistakes, too many things done wrong, too many missed opportunities.
In fact, how many times do fathers look at their own mistakes as they push their kids into opposite directions hoping for no repeat of past failures?
But not so with our Heavenly Father. He is perfect in all he does with no regrets and would never say “do as I say and not as I do” nor “learn from my mistakes”.
Our Heavenly Father who is perfect in all he does says to us: “What I really want is that you mimic me. My dream for you is that you would become just like me.”
With him as a perfect Heavenly Father, who wouldn’t want to imitate him? He is perfect. No skeletons in his closet, no unkind word ever spoken, no regrets, hypocrisy, mistakes or failures. None.
It gives us an incredible desire to want to be like him, right?
Part of this desire certainly is because he is worth imitating, right?
But there is more at play than that. Somehow when we were birthed into the family as sons and daughters, his Holy Spirit settled into our hearts.
There is something about my new nature empowered by the Spirit that makes me want to be like Him.
Then as I look around the family of God and see all my older brothers and sisters – not older in years but in maturity and God-likeness, and I see the Heavenly Father in them in how they react and talk and treat others - makes me want to be like them as they are like Him.
On top of it all, to have received what we called last time an education of the heart makes this desire irrepressible and me incorrigible.
With God pouring his grace into my heart, which in turn helps me change the way I think and the way I live, makes me realize that I can grow up and be like him in every way.
So when I hear the Bible tell me: “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect” everything inside me says yes! Not only do I want to mimic him but I actually can.
I really want to be like him. Every fiber of my being yearns to be like Him in everything I do. The question is what does that look like?
What Does it Look Like?
We had a man who attended our former church along with his wife. A retired guy from GM who came to church dressed to the nine’s. Suit, tie and polished shoes every Sunday.
At the time, he and his wife used to bring their two grandkids to church with them, with little James no older than maybe five or six. Little James obviously loved his grandpa, for he mimicked him in almost every way. It was almost comical to see little James wear his little suit like his grandpa with a little tie and little dress shoes all polished. Even his hair was slicked back just like Grandpa. To see little James was to see Grandpa.
Is that what it means to mimic our Heavenly Father by how we look and how we dress? Can we say to see me is to see God? Does it come down to our physicality with us looking like little James?
I think not. It’s rather doubtful that we are to mimic our Heavenly Father with our outward appearances, since none of us have even seen him.
Even if we could, we wouldn’t be able to see him since God is spirit and has no physicality in that sense to him.
We can never physically look like him, which is actually a blessing in disguise because it means this is not about how we look but how we are on the inside.
It forces our attention away from physicality to the issues of the heart, which are by far harder issues than slipping into a suit on a Sunday.
So if we can’t look like him with our physicality, then what does it mean to mimic him?
You know God by his actions and deeds. To know him is to see his attributes and characteristics. Never once is it about how God looks.
So in the Scripture, there are verses such as: “But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,” (Ps. 86:16) and “You are kind and forgiving, O Lord, abounding in love” (Ps 86:5) which reveal his loving character.
These are the things we are mimic. The very attributes Paul outlines in Eph. 4 and 5, which if we live these out make us mimics and imitators of God.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other” (Eph. 4:32) – sounds pretty familiar, huh? The very things said of God elsewhere in the Scriptures. You want to mimic your Heavenly Father, then be kind and compassionate, forgiving each other!
On the flip side, the things we are not to do as outlined in Eph. 4 also means to mimic him by abstaining from these.
So when it says: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander along with every form of malice” (Eph. 4:31), it does so because there is nothing about our Heavenly Father that would suggest such behavior.
Our Heavenly Father does not carry around bitterness, rage, anger or brawling. Nothing about him says that and nothing that a mimic of God would ever entertain.
In fact, much of what Paul writes about straddling Eph. 4 and 5 provides various behaviors that our Heavenly Father is not. To mimic him means to stay away from what He is not.
Since our Father is pure and innocent, therefore “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. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” Eph. 5:3-5
Since our Father never lies but always speaks truth, therefore “each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor.” 4:25
Since our Father handles his anger very well, therefore “in your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” 4:26
Since our Father never takes what’s not his and always enjoys the fruit of his own labors, therefore “he who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his hands.” 4:28
Since only wholesome, uplifting talk comes from our Father’s mouth, therefore “do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” 4:29
This is how you become a mimic of our Heavenly Father, friends!
Living a Life of Love
Although these are attributes and characteristics that touch on many aspects of our human interaction, all of these can be boiled down to one word and one concept.
Everything that God is, everything that God does and everything that motivates God comes down to one word which is love.
If there is one thing God is more than anything else, then its love. The three most powerful words in the New Testament are “God is love.” (I Jn. 4:8)
Listen to John’s words: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” I Jn 4:7-8,11-12
This is why when Paul tells the Ephesians to mimic God he says, “Be imitators of God therefore as dearly loved children and live a life of love.” Eph. 5:1
Living a life of love is what God wants for us more than anything else in the world.
I love the clarity Paul brings to this in I Cor. 13. It is ‘no nonsense’ and cuts through everything as he lays it all out.
He says it doesn’t matter how passionate you are nor how gifted you are nor even how sacrificial you are but how loving you are.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” (I Cor. 13:1). Who cares how much passion you have and much you can speak in tongues; if you don’t have love its only noise.
“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. “ (I Cor. 13:2). Who cares how gifted and talented you are; if you don’t have love you are nothing.
“If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. “ (I Cor. 13:3). Who cares the monuments you have built and the suffering you have endured, if you don’t have love you have gained nothing by it.
You want to please your Heavenly Father? Then mimic his life of love. What does that look like?
This is what it looks like: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.” I Cor. 13:4-7
In fact, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” I Cor. 13:13
Mimic your Heavenly Father by living a life of love!
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