Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children . . . . (Ephesians 5:1)
How does a person learn to imitate God?
As I laid my Bible down and pondered that idea, I remembered another text, this one in St. John’s gospel. Jesus said to His disciples, He who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit (John 15:5). Then St. Paul’s words dropped into my mind, I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20).
As I mulled over those texts, I realized again (I say again because the Holy Spirit often has to remind me of things He has repeatedly shown me over the years . . . things I quickly forget), we learn to imitate Christ by abiding – remaining close to – Him. The closer we abide, the better we imitate.
It’s really that simple.
Jesus in His humanity abided so well in His Father that at no time in all of Scripture did He ever question who He was or what was His purpose on earth.
Even at the age of twelve, when Mary and Joseph found Him in the Temple, Jesus already knew His purpose. Didn’t you know I had to be about My Father’s things? He asked His parents. During His adult ministry, the Lord repeatedly and without hesitation declared His divine mission and origin. When St. Peter said to Jesus, You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Jesus answered, Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven (Matthew 16:16-17) To a grieving Martha and Mary, He said, I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even if he dies. And everyone who lives and believes in me will never die (John 11:25-26); To the Pharisees, He declared, Before Abraham was born, I Am (John 8:58), and, My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work (John 4:34); And yet again, I and the father are one (John 10:30).
The Church, which St. Paul calls the “pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15) adds her guidance about the Lord’s confidence and knowledge of His origin and purpose. For example, we find in the Catechism:
Paragraph 536: The baptism of Jesus is on his part the acceptance and inauguration of his mission as God's suffering Servant. He allows himself to be numbered among sinners; he is already "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world". Already he is anticipating the "baptism" of his bloody death. Already he is coming to "fulfill all righteousness", that is, he is submitting himself entirely to his Father's will: out of love he consents to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins. The Father's voice responds to the Son's acceptance, proclaiming his entire delight in his Son.
Paragraph 440: Jesus accepted Peter's profession of faith, which acknowledged him to be the Messiah . . . . He unveiled the authentic content of his messianic kingship both in the transcendent identity of the Son of Man "who came down from heaven", and in his redemptive mission as the suffering Servant . . . .
Paragraphy 442 [When] Simon Peter . . . confesses Jesus as "the Christ, the Son of the living God", for Jesus responds solemnly: "Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” . . . .
Scores of additional such passages thread their way through the Gospels and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Each illustrates without equivocation or nuance that Jesus never doubted his origin, role, or mission.
So what does that mean for us?
It is this: We do not have to stumble through life wondering who we are and why we are here. When we abide with Christ and learn to imitate His obedience to the Father, then who we are becomes clear -- we are a child of God. And life’s real purpose -- that being to serve Christ, to serve others and bring them the gospel of truth --becomes our passion.
After all, if it were not so, the Holy Spirit would not have guided St. Paul to write: Be imitators of God, as beloved children.