In What Ways Can We “Become Imitators of God”?
“You must accordingly be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”—Matt. 5:48.
1. How should we feel toward our heavenly Father, and why?
WHEN you truly admire someone, do you not want to be like him? You may even make a deliberate effort to imitate him. Children are like that. Many young boys are heard to say, “When I grow up I’m going to be just like my daddy.” Should we not feel similarly about our heavenly Father, Jehovah God? How truly desirable he is in every way! How bountifully he provides for us, even to the extent of making arrangements for us to be ransomed from sin and death to enjoy everlasting life! (John 3:16; Ps. 145:16) Should we not be moved to want to be like God? But in what ways can we imitate him? To what extent can we be like God?
2. (a) Why is it possible for us to be perfect as God is perfect? (b) In what sense is the English word “perfect” frequently used, and how does this compare with the meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words translated “perfect”?
2 It may surprise you to what extent Jesus Christ emphasized that we need to be like God. In his Sermon on the Mount he said: “You must accordingly be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48) But can we imperfect creatures be perfect? Yes, because in the Scriptures, even as in our everyday conversation, the word “perfect” is used in a relative sense. Thus it might be said that a thing is perfect if it completely or fully serves the purpose for which it is intended. Because this is so, we find that such servants of God as Noah and Job were spoken of as being “perfect.” (Gen. 6:9; Job 2:3, Authorized Version, Leeser Version) The Hebrew and Greek words here translated “perfect” have the sense of being ‘complete, fully developed, intact,’ even as the English word “perfect” also is defined as “complete, sound, flawless.”
3, 4. (a) In what sense were Noah and Job perfect? (b) In what sense can we be perfect as our heavenly father is perfect?
3 True, men such as Noah and Job were not “perfect” in the sense of being sinless, but the sum total of what they did was what God required of them, considering the time when they lived and their circumstances. They pleased God; they did what he rightly expected of them. Thus they were faultless, blameless, perfect in that sense.
4 With these thoughts in mind we can understand the words of Jesus. When he said, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” he did not mean he expected us to be sinless, but, rather, to be perfect in certain other ways or respects. This can be seen from the context of Jesus’ words. He had stated that God sends the sunshine and the rain not only upon the good and righteous, but also upon the unrighteous and the wicked ones. So, if we would be imitators of God, perfect as he is perfect, we must not only show kindness, mercy and generosity to our relatives, our friends, or those of our own race or nationality, but also be ready and willing to do good wherever an opportunity or a need presents itself. Then it can be said that our love is complete, is perfect.
5, 6. (a) Why, apparently, did Jesus tell a certain rich young man that he fell short of being perfect? (b) What lesson can we today learn from this first-century experience?
5 To be imitators of God by being perfect even as He is perfect, we also must be doing all we can in the interest of pure worship. Jesus Christ showed this when a rich young man came up to him and asked what he must do to inherit everlasting life. Jesus explained: “If you want to be perfect, go sell your belongings and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and come be my follower.” (Matt. 19:16-23) Apparently the young man was distracted from serving God whole-souled by his many material possessions. His heart was turned toward his riches. Jesus realized that he would be benefited if he unburdened himself of these distractions. They were preventing him from being perfect or complete in his service to God.
6 What meaning do Jesus’ words about being “perfect” have for us today? This: We simply cannot be content with giving token service to God. We must love Jehovah God with our whole mind, heart, soul and strength, and not allow personal desires or ambitions to interfere with our complete devotion to Him. Thus if we have no Scriptural obligations or physical handicaps to keep us from sharing full time in preaching the good news of God’s kingdom to others, we will be sharing in the full-time preaching work. We cannot be “perfect” if we hold back in our service to God.
BEING UPRIGHT AND JUST
7, 8. (a) What do the Scriptures say as to Jehovah God’s being just? (b) To imitate God as to justice, what is required of us if we are secularly employed?
7 To ‘be perfect as God is perfect’ involves loving what he loves. This would include pursuing that which is just and right. The Bible tells us that God is “a lover of justice,” and that in him “there is no injustice; righteous and upright is he.” (Ps. 37:28; Deut. 32:4) Therefore, to be “imitators of God” we must be honest in all our dealings, and, if we are employed, that includes our dealings with our employer. (Eph. 5:1) Today when dishonesty is so rampant, it is common for persons to go along with practices that are really wrong, thus, in effect, following “after the crowd for evil ends.”—Ex. 23:2.
8 For example, many employees customarily do as little as they possibly can and still hold their jobs, or when no one is looking they may take things that do not belong to them. We simply could not do such things and be imitators of God. Common today, too, is the practice of taking advantage of welfare and unemployment provisions that do not apply to one and of borrowing and not paying back. However, to “be perfect” in justice we must “make honest provision . . . in the sight of men,” keeping our “conduct fine among the nations.”—Ps. 37:21; 2 Cor. 8:21; 1 Pet. 2:12.
9. What does Godlike justice require of us in our relationship to “Caesar”?
9 To imitate God in his justice also requires that we be conscientious in the payment of taxes. God’s Word tells us to “pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar,” and to “render to all their dues, to him who calls for the tax, the tax.” (Mark 12:17; Rom. 13:7) A well-to-do Christian not so long ago had to be disfellowshiped from the Christian congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses for refusing to heed these Scriptural injunctions. Actually, he was a very rare exception, like Achan in ancient Israel, for Jehovah’s witnesses as a whole have a fine reputation as law-abiding taxpayers. (Josh. 7:1-26) Thus, the German newspaper Sindelfinger Zeitung carried an article with the heading “The Most Honest People . . . Are Jehovah’s Witnesses.” It spoke about the matter of paying taxes, and concluded with the statement: “The Jehovah’s Witnesses are recognizably the most honest people in the Federal Republic, says the Federal Ministry of Finance.” That is the way it should be, seeing that the very purpose of Jehovah’s witnesses is to be imitators of God.
FAITHFUL AND DEPENDABLE
10. What do the Scriptures say about Jehovah God as being faithful and dependable?
10 Jehovah God himself sets a shining example for us to imitate in being faithful and dependable. As God’s prophet Moses said to his people Israel: “You well know that Jehovah your God is the true God, the faithful God, keeping covenant and loving-kindness.” (Deut. 7:9) Moses’ successor Joshua also testified to this same fact, saying: “You well know with all your hearts and with all your souls that not one word out of all the good words that Jehovah your God has spoken to you has failed. They have all come true for you. Not one word of them has failed.” Jehovah is our “faithful Creator” to whom we can with utmost confidence and trust “keep on commending” our souls.—Josh. 23:14; 1 Pet. 4:19; 1 Cor. 10:13.
11. (a) What responsibilities do we have toward God as dedicated children of his? (b) How can we show our faithful dependability in carrying out the principal work of God’s servants today?
11 So, then, as imitators of Jehovah God we, too, must be faithful and dependable. We have committed to us such personal assets as time, money, energy and personal influence. We need to be faithful in the stewardship of these. (1 Cor. 4:1, 2) Have we told Jehovah that we want to be one of his children, and that we will serve him as long as we live? Are we faithfully keeping our word to do this? The principal work that Jehovah wants his servants to do now is to preach about his kingdom, the government that will destroy wickedness and bring peace to the earth. In a prophecy that has fulfillment in our day, Jesus said: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth . . . and then the end will come.” (Matt. 24:14) Are we faithful in doing this preaching? Do we engage in it regularly, calling on all the people in the area where we have been assigned to preach? Do we make return visits on all persons who show an interest in wanting to know more about God? Are we dependable when it comes to conducting home Bible studies with such persons?
12, 13. (a) How can we show Godlike dependability in the marital relationship? (b) How can youthful Christians show that they are dependable?
12 There is another area in which it is vital that we be faithful and dependable, and that is in our family relationships. Are we as married Christians keeping our vows to love and cherish each other? Or do we let other interests or matters, such as ambitions of one kind or another, cause us to “shortchange” our marital partner? Do we faithfully limit our sex interest to our mate, or is there a wandering of desire at times? Love and empathy will help us to be faithful and dependable. Doing so, we will be imitating Jehovah, proving ourselves perfect as he is perfect. For Jehovah is certainly the faithful and dependable husbandly Owner of his wifely organization.—Isa. 54:1, 5.
13 And what about you young folks? Are you imitating God by being dependable and faithful? For example, do you take an interest in your school assignments and care for them diligently? Do you show yourselves reliable when it comes to duties about the house? When father comes home at night, does he find that you have performed the tasks he may have given you to do? In your youth you have the opportunity to remember your Grand Creator by doing things that will cause you to become precious in his eyes.—Eccl. 12:1.
HATE WHAT GOD HATES
14. In imitation of Jehovah, what are some of the things we should hate?
14 Still another way in which we can “become imitators of God,” and thus prove ourselves perfect as He is perfect, is by hating what God hates. What does he hate? He tells us: “I, Jehovah, am . . . hating robbery along with unrighteousness.” “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 that launches forth lies, and anyone sending forth contentions among brothers.” Also, the Bible encourages: “You lovers of Jehovah, hate what is bad.” “Abhor what is wicked.”—Isa. 61:8; Prov. 6:16-19; Ps. 97:10; Rom. 12:9.
15. (a) What does it mean to “hate what is bad”? (b) Why is it vital that we hate what is bad?
15 What does it mean to “hate what is bad”? It means to have an ‘intense feeling of aversion’ toward what is bad, to ‘dislike it exceedingly.’ Yes, it is not enough that we be indifferent or neutral toward what is wicked or bad. What is bad can at times be so appealing to our fallen tendencies; it can promise excitement, sensual pleasure or even wealth and ease. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that we regard what is bad with detestation. How can we do this?
16. How can we avoid having badness take root and develop in us?
16 First of all, we can sincerely endeavor to keep all forms of badness from taking root in us by guarding our hearts, our affections, desires and emotions. (Prov. 4:23; 1 Pet. 3:10, 11) An important way to do this is by being careful about what books, magazines and newspaper articles we read. Do we have a morbid curiosity regarding wickedness to the point that we relish reading about what is bad? Then we cannot be said to be hating it. And if we hate what is bad, we will not be watching TV programs or movies that feature violence, brutality, sexual immorality and other forms of badness. We cannot keep viewing such things without becoming calloused and no longer hating them; in fact, we will even come to desire such things.
17. (a) Why must we be careful about our associations? (b) How should we view any disfellowshiping action of the judicial committee, and why?
17 Also, if we are to become imitators of Jehovah by hating what is bad we will be extremely careful regarding the persons we choose as companions, remembering that “bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Cor. 15:33) This would include our giving loyal support to the action of a congregational judicial committee when it disfellowships a person because of conduct unbecoming a Christian. (1 Cor. 5:1-13) Such a person is not good association. We should feel righteously indignant over the badness in which he engaged, and the reproach his conduct brought upon Jehovah God and the Christian congregation. We should consider how his bad course could stumble new or immature Christians. We should react as did the apostle Paul when he said: “Who is stumbled, and I am not incensed?”—2 Cor. 11:29.
IMITATING GOD AS TO LOVE
18. (a) What is the finest way we can ‘prove ourselves perfect’ as God is? (b) What reasons do we have to imitate him in this way?
18 But, above all, the way that we can prove ourselves ‘perfect as our Father is perfect’ is by displaying the fine quality of love. How his Word magnifies this quality of his! “God IS love,” the Bible says. Especially has God recommended “his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Surely this loving provision of his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, should cause us to respond appreciatively! The apostle John showed this, saying: “If this is how God loved us, then we are ourselves under obligation to love one another.”—1 John 4:9-11, 16; Rom. 5:8.
19. In what ways can we show Godlike generosity?
19 Among the ways we can be like God as to love is by being generous. Jehovah is the Giver of “every good gift and every perfect present,” and “he gives generously to all and without reproaching.” (Jas. 1:17, 5) With what can we be generous so as to be imitators of God? For one thing, we have the truth regarding God’s purposes. And since we have freely received it, so we should freely give it by sharing the Kingdom good news with others on every appropriate occasion. We can also manifest Godlike generosity by giving generously of our material means toward the support of the Kingdom preaching work locally and world wide. Yet another way to show generosity is by helping any of our fellow Christians who may be in need. It is absolutely vital that we demonstrate such generosity, for it is an important way that we heed Jesus’ command to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”—Matt. 5:46-48; 1 John 3:17, 18.
20, 21. (a) In connection with what specifically are we urged to “become imitators of God”? (b) How can we imitate God by being forgiving?
20 Another way in which we can imitate God as to love is by being forgiving. In fact, it is in connection with God’s being forgiving that we are specifically counseled to become imitators of God. Note the context of the apostolic admonition that we have had under consideration: “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. 4:32–5:2.
21 Since we are all imperfect and are limited in wisdom, understanding and discernment, should we not be able to make allowances for the sins of our Christian brothers and be ready to forgive them? Yes, love “covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Pet. 4:8) If Jehovah ‘remembers that we are but dust’ and so ‘puts our transgressions as far from us as the sunrise is from the sunset,’ should not we imperfect creatures be even more willing to be forgiving toward those who may transgress against us and who ask our forgiveness? Since God forgives “in a large way,” should not we imitate him also in this? That means that we want to be willing to forgive “seventy-seven times,” as Jesus told Peter to do, including even serious offenses against us if the offender shows true repentance.—Ps. 103:8-14; Isa. 55:7; Matt. 18:21-35.
22-24. (a) What does the Bible say as to Jehovah’s being long-suffering? (b) How can all of us imitate Jehovah and also show ourselves long-suffering?
22 Yet another way in which God sets such a loving example for us is by being slow to anger and long-suffering. Pointing toward this appealing aspect of God’s personality, the apostle Peter wrote: “Jehovah . . . is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9) How slow to anger God showed himself to be in dealing with his nation of Israel during the reign of the kings! The Bible says: “Jehovah the God of their forefathers kept sending against them by means of his messengers, sending again and again, because he felt compassion for his people.”—2 Chron. 36:15.
23 We can imitate this aspect of God’s love by avoiding becoming disturbed because of the shortcomings of others. At times those over whom one presides may show indifference or carelessness, and so how easy it is then for an overseer to “fly off the handle,” as the saying goes. But to be imitators of God overseers also need to be patient, long-suffering and slow to anger.
24 Particularly in the family circle should we want to exercise this quality of long-suffering. It is common for husbands of the world to be impatient with their wives. How fitting, therefore, the counsel of the apostle Paul to Christians: “Husbands, keep on loving your wives and do not be bitterly angry with them”! (Col. 3:19) Very appropriate, too, are the apostle Peter’s words regarding treatment of wives. “You husbands, continue dwelling in like manner with them according to knowledge, assigning them honor as to a weaker vessel, the feminine one, since you are also heirs with them of the undeserved favor of life, in order for your prayers not to be hindered.” Heeding this counsel is just as important as carrying out God’s will to preach his Kingdom message earth wide.—1 Pet. 3:7.
25, 26. (a) How has God shown endurance? (b) How can we manifest Godlike endurance?
25 Still another way in which we need to imitate God if we are to be perfect as he is perfect is in imitation of his loving endurance. “Love . . . endures all things,” the Bible says. (1 Cor. 13:4, 7) Does God manifest endurance? Yes, for he continues to do right, despite feeling pain and hurt when his creatures go wrong. (Ps. 78:40, 41) As the inspired apostle reminds us: “God . . . tolerated with much long-suffering vessels of wrath made fit for destruction.” Why? Because of his love, so that he “might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy.”—Rom. 9:22, 23.
26 If we would be imitators of God as to his love we too must manifest endurance. We may “not give up in doing what is fine.” (Gal. 6:9) Love will help us to continue faithful in our work of Kingdom-preaching despite the indifference of the people we speak to, or even their opposition. We may be serving at a Bethel home where Bible literature is produced to facilitate the earth-wide Kingdom preaching. Our duties there may be routine, but love for Jehovah God will help us to endure therein, knowing that it works toward the vindication of God’s name and the salvation of others, and is proof of our appreciation for all that he has done for us.
WHY STRIVE TO BE PERFECT AS GOD IS?
27, 28. (a) Is the matter of being perfect as God is perfect optional? (b) Why does it work to our happiness to be perfect as God is perfect?
27 Surely there is much involved in being an imitator of God and thus proving ourselves perfect as he is perfect! But notice that this matter of being “perfect” is not optional. Jesus said: “You must accordingly be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48) Yes, being just and upright, faithful and dependable, hating what God hates, and showing love by being generous, forgiving, long-suffering and exercising endurance is absolutely vital if we are to be true Christians, “imitators of God, as beloved children.” (Eph. 5:1) But, really, to be perfect as God is perfect results in no great hardship or sacrifice on our part. Rather, we are benefited. For is not Jehovah the “happy God”? (1 Tim. 1:11) Imitating Him will contribute to our happiness too. How so?
28 For one thing, by imitating Jehovah we make his heart rejoice, even as he tells us: “Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, that I may make a reply to him that is taunting me.” (Prov. 27:11) Certainly we can be happy if our course of life is making our heavenly Father rejoice, can we not? And by imitating God we will have not only happiness, peace of mind and contentment now, but also the sure hope of everlasting life in his new system of things. Surely there is every reason to strive to ‘be perfect as our heavenly Father, Jehovah God, is perfect’!