LifeLink Devotions (Click here for Apple podcast)
Wednesday, March 16, 2022
One day a young mother was sick in bed at home. Even though her daughter was only four years old, she had been taught that love meant serving others in need. She got some magazines for her mommy, fluffed her pillow, turned on the TV, and then went to the kitchen where she was determined to make a cup of tea. When she returned, her mommy was impressed. “Who taught you how to make tea?” she asked. “Oh, Mommy, I’ve seen you do it lots of times. But I couldn’t find your strainer, so I used the fly swatter instead.” Mom was shocked, and yelled, “You what?” The little girl calmly replied, “Don’t worry, Mommy. I didn’t use the new one – I used the old one so you wouldn’t be mad.”
Children are great imitators. Unfortunately, imitation without reasoning skills can be dangerous. That little four-year old was imitating her mom, but still needed the direct influence of her mother to do it correctly. This is an important distinction for us to understand when it comes to our imitation of God.
As His dearly loved children, we are never left to imitate without His direct influence. Several years ago a bracelet was created for people to wear that had four letters on it – W.W.J.D. Those letters stood for What Would Jesus Do? That phrase first gained real popularity as a result of Charles Sheldon’s 1896 book, In His Steps. Sheldon’s novel grew out of a series of sermons he delivered in his Congregationalist church in Topeka, Kansas. Sheldon’s theology was shaped by a commitment to Christian Socialism. The ethos of Sheldon’s approach to the Christian life was expressed in this phrase “What Would Jesus Do”, with Jesus being a moral example rather than a Savior figure. The end result of his teaching for many was to emphasize the ability of man to please God and to minimize man’s need for salvation from sin and the necessity of the indwelling presence of God.
Now that’s not to say that there isn’t a great need for the social application of God’s love. In fact, that’s the whole point of the Apostle Paul’s command in Ephesians 5:1-2. We are, as dearly loved children of God, to imitate the love of God in our lives to the fullest extent that Christ Jesus did when He sacrificed His life to meet our need of forgiveness from sin. But the imitation of God’s love is not a learned behavior that we put on over top of a sinful flesh. God’s love is not a series of rules and regulations we follow because we want to please God and somehow look and behave like Jesus. God’s love cannot be understood or practiced by studying it. God’s love can only be imitated by those who have been transformed by it. The external imitation of God’s love is only possible by the person who has been born-again by Jesus Christ. We do not earn our salvation by imitating God – we imitate God because we have been saved. We have no need to ask, “What would Jesus do?” so that we appear spiritual. We who are spiritual already know what Jesus would do because He lives in us. He is the direct influence that is needed for us to live lives that are pleasing to God. Jesus Christ, the hope of glory, lives in us by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. There’s no need to ask, “What would Jesus Do?” It is only necessary to surrender to the life of Jesus that is in you and He will live out God’s love through you.
On June 3, 2008, United States President George Bush honored a soldier who responded sacrificially when all of his training had told him to protect himself. You see, if there’s an opportunity to escape the deadly blast of a grenade, the Army trains soldiers to take it. But when an Iraqi insurgent threw a grenade into the Humvee where PFC. Ross A. McGinnis manned the machine gun, he had time to jump from the turret and save himself. But according to his buddies in the Humvee he would have probably been the only one to escape. Instead, McGinnis yelled “grenade” into his microphone, dropped down the turret and used his back to smother the grenade. On Monday, during a solemn White House ceremony, President Bush presented McGinnis’ parents, Tom and Romayne, with a posthumous Medal of Honor for their son, who absorbed the grenade’s blast and saved the other men. “America will always honor the name of this brave soldier who gave all for his country,” Bush said.
That’s exactly how our lives can be lived – so that the life of Jesus Christ overwhelms the training of the world in a moment of need. We honor the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross when we do what He did – sacrifice our lives for the sake of others. That’s what proves we are His dearly loved children. Then we too are true imitators of God.