“Therefore, imitate God like dearly loved children. Live your life with love, following the example
of Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us. He was a sacrificial offering that smelled sweet to God.Sexual immorality, and any kind of impurity or greed, shouldn’t even be mentioned among you, which is right for holy persons. Obscene language, silly talk, or vulgar jokes aren’t acceptable for believers. Instead, there should be thanksgiving. Because you know for sure that persons who are sexually immoral, impure, or greedy—which happens when things become gods—those persons won’t inherit the kingdom of Christ and God.”
Ephesians 5:1-5 (Common English Bible)
In this familiar passage of Scripture, Paul the Apostle is calling the Church at Ephesus to embrace and live out their identity as Christians. He calls them to “imitate God like dearly loved children, living life with love and following Christ’s example: loving and giving ourselves for others”. (My paraphrase) As I was reading this passage, I began preaching this text silently in my bedroom. As I continued to “Exegete” this for my four walls, it occurred to me that Paul was calling these Christians not to Christianity but to Humanity.
What I mean is that Christianity is not at all about becoming a Christian. Nor is it about becoming some intrinsically new creature. It is actually about being restored to who we were originally intended to be- Humans. That is, after all, the entire concept of redemption. To be redeemed isn’t to be made new, but rather to be renewed or better yet, recycled. But by imitating God- which is following the example of Christ, who revealed God to us, and to reject lust, obscenity, greed and all other forms of idolatry and self-satisfaction, we actually slowly begin to become…human.
C.S. Lewis describes this in his book The Problem of Pain:
“To enter heaven is to become more human than you ever succeeded in being on earth; to enter hell is to be banished from humanity. What is cast (or casts itself) into hell is not a man: it is “remains.” To be a complete man means to have the passions obedient to the will and the will offered to God: to have been a man – to be an ex-man or “damned ghost” – would presumably mean to consist of a will utterly centered in its self and passions utterly uncontrolled by the will.”
Though Lewis is describing the eternal state in this quote, it still works. On earth, those who live as their own gods instead of in the divine image of God- Jesus Christ- in which we were created to be are nothing more than “Damned Ghosts”, utterly centered on themselves and their passions to the detriment of themselves and the world around them. Likewise, those who live in the “Kingdom of Heaven”, meaning, as those who are the children of God and siblings of Christ, following his example of love, grace, and selflessness, are actually embracing their humanity. Adam, prefall, was just as Christ was post resurrection. That is the whole of redemption theology. Christ is called the second Adam (which means human by the way), who lived as the example and the means by which all of the damned ghosts of fallen humanity can be restored to being truly human.
Christian Author Jerry Bridges notes that “Every time a Christian sins they are experiencing an identity crisis.” I often here people say when they make a mistake or sin, “Well, I’m only human.” But being fallen and imperfect is not what being a human is about. Experiencing injustice and illness is not what being a human about. The Human identity is found reflected in the resurrected Christ- eternal, loving, gracious, creative, powerful, and just. Sinning or living as a sower of immorality and injustice is not what it means to be human. As Christians, we are those who have willingly subjected ourselves to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit who is progressively restoring us to our true humanity as partakers of divine nature, Sons and Daughter, Co heirs of God. Every time we sin, we are acting contrary to who we are- we are forfeiting our identity.
So what are the practical implications of this? Well I think Paul makes it clear. We are to embrace our falleness and brokenness. Accept that we are severely damaged by sin. And in that, seek the resurrection life of Christ through faith and obedience to the Jesus way, truth, and life. By living a life that worships God, reflects Christ in what we do, and embraces true humanity, we will be “a sweet smelling savor to God”. Jesus died and rose so that we may die to our fallen nature and rise to our true identity. We must submit to Jesus Lordship and seek to live lives marked by the fruits of His Spirit. When we do that, our twisted nature will be suffocated and we will be transformed into the image of Christ and partakers of His Kingdom- true humans.
Just a thought.