“Become Imitators of God”
SOME persons have disparaging things to say about the human tendency to imitate. But imitating can be a real compliment. By imitating you show that you think so highly of what another does that you want to try to do the same.
Children instinctively imitate their elders. This places a heavy responsibility on their parents. Do parents lie, cheat, steal, use obscene, profane or vulgar language? You may be sure that their children will do the same things. Do parents lead honest and clean lives, adhering closely to Bible principles? Then there is a very strong likelihood that their children will grow up doing the same.
Regarding imitation it has been said: ‘He who imitates evil often goes beyond the example that is set, while he who imitates good often falls short.’ To illustrate: the problem of trying to imitate a good example is especially apparent to all Christians who would heed the admonition of the apostle Paul: “Become imitators of me, even as I am of Christ.”—1 Cor. 11:1.
Since we often come short in imitating a good example, would it not be wise to try to imitate the very best example there is, the greatest, the noblest, the wisest, the most righteous, the most loving and unselfish of all? Just who furnishes that example must be apparent to most readers of this magazine, namely, the Creator, Jehovah God. Yet at once questions arise. How could such a thing be possible? Is it not sheer presumption even to think of imitating God? Would it not be both discouraging and frustrating even to try?
BEING LOVING AND FORGIVING
But how can these divine commands be carried out, since we are all imperfect? We cannot imitate God in his almightiness, nor are we free from sin, as he is. But we can aim to imitate him in his moral qualities. For example, we can endeavor to imitate God by being loving, by having the principled love termed in Greek as agápe. To be loving means to be unselfish, be concerned about the well-being of others. Whether we are rich or poor, old or young, strong or weak, we can strive to be unselfish. God set a marvelous example for us in this, for he gave the dearest treasure of his heart to redeem mankind, even as we read: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16; compare Acts 14:17.
We can imitate Jehovah God as to his unselfishness by obeying the Scriptural injunction: “Really, then, as long as we have time favorable for it, let us work what is good toward all.” (Gal. 6:10) The Bible describes how godlike love is shown: “Love is long-suffering and kind. Love . . . does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury.” To the extent that we practice this kind of love, to that extent we will be imitating Jehovah God.—1 Cor. 13:4-7; 1 John 4:8.
Being ready to forgive is a facet of love, and in this we too must imitate God. Must? Yes, for unless we imitate him in this regard He will not forgive us. Jesus Christ repeatedly stressed this principle. He said that unless a person forgives others, God will not forgive him. (Matt. 6:12-15) On another occasion Jesus gave an extended parable on this matter, which concluded with his warning: “In like manner my heavenly Father will also deal with you if you do not forgive each one his brother from your hearts.” (Matt. 18:35) It is in this very respect of forgiving one another that the apostle Paul urges us to be imitators of God: “Become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another just as God also by Christ freely forgave you. Therefore, become imitators of God, as beloved children, and go on walking in love.”—Eph. 4:32; 5:1.
HATE WHAT GOD HATES
Another way in which we imperfect and weak mortals can imitate God is by hating what he hates. Does God also hate? Yes, he hates wickedness and willfully wicked ones, including religious hypocrites. Did not Jesus imitate his Father in this respect and did he not hate religious hypocrites? He most certainly did, repeatedly saying: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”—Matt. 23:13-33; John 5:19.
That Jehovah God himself does indeed hate wickedness and practicers of what is wicked is seen from Proverbs 6:16-19: “There are six things that Jehovah does hate; yes, seven are things detestable to his soul: lofty eyes, a false tongue, and hands that are shedding innocent blood, a heart fabricating hurtful schemes, feet that are in a hurry to run to badness, a false witness . . . and anyone sending forth contentions among brothers.”
If we hate these things, what will we be doing? We will, on the one hand, be careful not to practice any such things ourselves, and, on the other hand, we will avoid having as companions those who practice such wicked things. “For what fellowship do righteousness and lawlessness have?” Truly, we can imitate God by being loyal to his righteous principles and so ‘be holy as he is holy.’—2 Cor. 6:14; 1 Pet. 1:16.
IMITATORS IN ENDURANCE
To mention just one more way in which we humans can imitate God, there is the quality of endurance, the virtue of sticking to our tasks, paying our vows and remaining true to our promises. Does the all-wise, Almighty God Jehovah really endure things? Well, if something annoys us and we can put a stop to it, but we put up with it for some good reason, we can be said to be enduring that annoyance, can we not? Even so with Jehovah God. All the wickedness, all the injustices, all the suffering and especially all the persecution of his faithful servants is painful to him. He could stop it at once by wiping out all the wicked, but to do so would deprive others of the opportunity for salvation. Thus we read: “Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise,” such as his promise to end wickedness and restore paradisaic conditions to this earth. “But he is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.”—2 Pet. 3:9.
Also, because Jehovah God has empathy, he has been called on to endure. Thus we read that when Israel, his people, suffered, he also suffered: “During all their distress it was distressing to him.” (Isa. 63:9) He has also endured in that he has tolerated for almost six thousand years having his name reproached, from the time that Satan the Devil in the garden of Eden called God a liar down to the present time when many promulgate a “God is dead” theology.—Gen. 3:1-5.
We should imitate God in this respect. We should show empathy by patiently putting up with inconveniences and annoyances caused by the shortcomings of others. We should not fret because the wicked prosper, neither should we rise up in violence against governments because of what they permit, but, rather, we ought to exercise endurance. If unable to correct matters in line with Bible principles, then imitate Jehovah by manifesting this godly quality of endurance. Remember, God has promised: “Just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more.”—Ps. 37:1-11.
That it is indeed possible for imperfect humans to imitate God in these and other respects is being demonstrated daily by more than one and a half million Christian witnesses of Jehovah. They love God and their fellowman so much that they unselfishly devote all the time they possibly can to preaching the good news of God’s kingdom and in making disciples. They imitate God by being forgiving, not retaliating against those who persecute them. And they imitate God’s hatred for what is bad by practicing righteousness. They manifest endurance by carrying on their God-ordained activity, year in and year out, regardless of persecution, patiently waiting upon Jehovah God to straighten matters out.
Why not get in touch with Jehovah’s witnesses as soon as you can? Invite them in the next time they call at your door, or arrange to have them visit you. Look them up in your telephone directory. They will show you how you too can become an imitator of God, to God’s glory and to your own everlasting salvation and blessing.