One of the finest statements of the Christian life I have ever seen is found in Jason Hood’s book Imitating God in Christ: Recapturing a Biblical Pattern. This is what Jason says: “God, who created humans to imitate him, has now imitated humans [in Christ] in order to make them right with him” (68). To imitate God, God became [imitated] what we are (humans) in order that we can become [imitation] what God is (this is roughly what we learn from Athanasius). What happens then is we become like God.
Here is a problem: When salvation is seen as little more than a new status with God (justification), the theme of imitation (indeed, discipleship) is always shortchanged. When salvation is seen as little more than forgiveness, the theme of a new life falls to the side. So, as we will see in this post below, how one understands salvation determines how robust Christian living is. Imitation of Christ requires a robust salvation. Imitation leads to a positive test result for us in the paternity test.
In the divine paternity test, what are your results? Like God, like child?
Theology exaggerates the deity of Christ by not balancing it with the humanity of Christ. The imitation theme draws on the humanity of Christ. Hood says Jesus is God’s true image, the true human, and Jesus is also the representative human (not just a substitute). This leads to what Hood says of the three central vocations for Jesus’ disciples in the imitation theme:
we are authorized agents,
we are apprentices,
and we are ambassadors.
Jesus’ life is the template of the Christian’s life. These words are from Jesus: “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters” (Matthew 10:24-25). The disciple is to drink the cup Jesus drank (Mark 10:37, 40).
So what does the way of imitation look like? “When Jesus’ followers reject the way of the zealot, when they shun the way of violence, retaliation, retribution and bitterness, when they stand firm in clarity and biblical truth, when they choose the path of forgiveness and death, they share the spiritual genes of the Son of God. Like the Son, their elder brother, they reflect the likeness of the Father as they share his moral genetic code” (93-94).
Imitation tends to make Protestants nervous, so Jason Hood examines the engines of imitation in union with Christ, the power of the resurrection, regeneration and the Spirit. That is, he imitation is the heart of the matter because salvation is renewal.