by Jake Hall
published in Family Matters eNewsletter, 5/8/14
“Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” —Ephesians 5:1
Mimetai is the Greek root of our words to mimic, imitate, or mime.
We are born imitators. What does it mean to imitate God? How can we learn to love in this way?
Some would say, by rote memorization. It is the kind of pedagogy that past educators employed to great, if varied results. We do learn by imitation and repetition. Forgive the poor pedagogy, but some of you probably have experience in copying a rule a hundred times before you got it right. One such adage that I can still see scrawled on a black board in my own handwriting went something like, “I will not talk in Miss Pratt’s class.” Go figure, me in trouble for talking.
Parents of young children know this well. It is the same reason you find new mothers and fathers repeating Da Da or Ma Ma, as they race to see which the child may say first. Soon they will watch their speech, because children seem to pick up every little word. You wouldn’t want your child saying the same thing you might let slip when a hammer falls on your finger. Some of you may have learned that one the hard way.
Our imitation of Jesus comes from the impression we have of him. Our vocabulary of faith has both receptive and expressive vocabularies. Just as words gradually enter a person's vocabulary as we mature, so also our understanding of the word of God matures over time. The best way to expand your receptive language skills is to immerse yourself in the life of a congregation, experience the story of the good news, and learn to make it a part of your story.