“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:1-2).
This verse says more than just “be imitators” and “walk in love.” Look deeper. To be an imitator of God as a child of God, we can look at how children imitate their parents. There are commercials out there right now that depict a son imitating his dad. In order to imitate our parent, we need to be in close proximity and pay attention to what that parent is doing…how they react to stuff, their body language, their character and mannerisms. So to imitate God, we need to be in close proximity, paying attention to what He’s doing, learn His character, and pick up His mannerisms.
To walk in love doesn’t just mean to be kind, not boastful or proud, but forgiving, and all the other characteristics of love in 1 Cor. 13. That’s subjective. To walk in love, in this context, I believe is to be sure that God loves us and act like it. “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…a sacrifice to God.” He took our punishment so our debt is paid and God the Father is no longer angry at us. How does that look? It looks like God is not out to get us…He is not trying to find ways and reasons to smack us down. We can walk confidently, strong, full of joy, knowing God is on our side and only wants the best for us! Think of the difference between a confident dog in a dog show or a Seeing Eye dog, doing everything he’s been shown how to do, next to his master, joyfully responding…and then receiving love and pets from his best friend, his master. Then think of the neglected and abused dog, left out in the cold, hungry, fearful, and wary. What a difference in countenance and activity.
We are not abused or neglected by our Father. We are not spiritually feral! We are loved and touched and forgiven and rewarded and spiritually fed by our Father. And we need to walk like it. I think to “imitate God” is the subjective love, it’s how we love others – kindness, gentleness, long-suffering, self-control…all of the Fruit of the Spirit. And to “walk in love” is the objective love – it’s how we receive love – we are the objects of HIS love.