God created mankind (Genesis 1:26; Genesis 2:7), and because He made us, He knows us inside and out. When Jesus was explaining about how precious we are to God, he stated that God cares for even the sparrows and we are much more valuable to God than sparrows.
Matthew 10:29-31 Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.
Because He knows us so well and loves us so much, God is also going to watch out for us and tell us how to be in a godly relationship with Him. We all have different styles of learning. Some they say are visual learners, and some can listen to a lecture and retain the subject. Since God made us and knows us very well, He knows best how we learn. He tells us it is by imitation, and specifically, it is by imitation of Him.
Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;
This being imitators is a very important concept of being human. We are constantly imitating one another in social, physical, relational, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual ways. As children, who do we imitate? Our parents, grandparents, siblings and caregivers. I remember my boys dressing up as superman and jumping off of the sofa imitating what they saw Superman do. As we get older, we follow our friends and teachers, and the current stars, athletes, and recording artists. If we work in an office, we generally see familiar clothing choices. Some offices still require suits for men and business attire for women. Even without any dress code, the workers in the office will tend to mimic what others wear. In high school, teens are very adamant about not being like everyone else, yet there are still similarities in their individuality. Look around you at the hairstyles. Even with the cultural style now that whatever you like is fine, there are certain themes that people adhere to. We imitate one another, but we are exhorted to imitate God as His Son Jesus did.
Parents struggle with this concept of modeling for their children. Parents may focus on what kind of diapers are best, what is the safest car seat or high chair, foods, and cribs. A child will not remember his crib or soggy diaper in his adulthood, but he will remember how his mother and father loved him, taught him, and how they were together as parents. Modeling is not just for parents but all believers. We model God and our Messiah for others to see.
Albert Banduras, a research psychologist, in 1961 performed an experiment to determine how children learn aggression. This classic experiment is called the Bobo Experiment. Grade school aged children were matched pairs in three groups. The first group was shown videos of an adult in a playroom with lots of wonderful toys. In that room there was a “bop bag” that looked like a clown. The man or the woman who was modeling behaviors completely ignored all the other toys and just hit, kicked, tossed, screamed at, and thoroughly thrashed poor BoBo. The children in this group watched this for 10 minutes. The second group watched a video of an adult playing with all the other toys and ignoring BoBo. The third group was not shown any video and were just sent into the playroom to have a good time. The results were quite enlightening. The third group played with all the toys and normally bopped BoBo a few times but without much interest. The second group played with all the other toys and ignored Bobo. The first group spent their entire time in the play room beating up BoBo. The children also invented other ways to beat him up by using other toys like the hammer used for the pounding bench.
It was an important experiment, but one we would probably not see happening today because of more stringent rules on experiments involving children. This experiment showed in a concrete way that children are very susceptible to what they see. They can be in the finest clothes, finest houses, having the premier education of the day, and see ungodly behaviors and will model those. Parents, TV, all kinds of devices are influencing the behavior of our children and grandchildren. The purpose of bringing this to our attention is that we are to imitate what Scripture says – to imitate God. In the following verse in Ephesians 5, we learn:
Eph 5:2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
Walking in love is observed. It cannot be touched or tasted. We see the effects of the love of God. When we see godly love modeled, we know something important happened. Jesus modeled such love.
In the verses before the encouragement to be imitators, we are told of other behaviors that we are to model and imitate.
Ephesians 4:25-32 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak the truth every one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
Our brain is constantly scanning for past memories that resemble the situation in the present. What have we seen others do when forgiveness, edification, peace, wholesome words are needed? When we have morals and values modeled for us in our past, our brains go to those memories for information concerning how to act in the present situation. Those experiences become our “way of being.” We want to default to the Scriptural models we have seen and practiced ourselves. The holy spirit is there to remind us of these familiar patterns of behavior.
God knows us even by counting the very hair on our heads and loves us very much. Because He knows us so well, He knows that we need to have models to imitate for our behavior. God is the one we imitate. Christ certainly modeled God by making known God’s love, care, compassion, and provision for us. When we take the time to be closely aware of what we are modeling and who we are modeling our behavior after, we will have a better opportunity to be God’s dear children.