Playing dress up is not just putting on a costume, but it is putting on a different persona. We’ve been talking about taking off the old self (Eph. 4:22) and putting on the new self “in the likeness of God” (v 24). Our new self is in the likeness of God, so we are to imitate Him. “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” (Eph. 4:32-5:2)
We imitate God and walk in love because we have received His love and forgiveness–because we have put off the old self-centered self and taken on the new self in the likeness of God. Oswald Chambers said, “God does not give us power to love as He loves; the love of God, the very nature of God, possesses us, and He loves through us.” We have the very nature of God and His power through the indwelling Holy Spirit (see We Have the Power of God’s Mighty Strength).
John MacArthur said in The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, “The Christian has no greater calling or purpose than imitating his Lord. That is the very purpose of sanctification, growing in likeness to the Lord while serving Him on earth (Matt. 5:48). The Christian life is designed to reproduce godliness as modeled by the Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, in whose image believers have been recreated through the New Birth…As God’s dear children, believers are to become more and more like their heavenly Father.”
We are to be kind, tender-hearted, and forgive each other as the Lord has forgiven us. We are not to look for reasons to become offended by each other; we aren’t to gossip about each other; we aren’t to ignore someone who has hurt our feelings or made us angry. That behavior is part of the old self we are to put off (Eph 4:17-19). We are to be like children who put on their parents’ clothing and imitate them — we are to “be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love”.
To know how to walk, we must look at the biblical definition of love: “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Cor. 13:4-7) There’s nothing in here that says to love only those who deserve it. In fact it “does not take into account a wrong suffered” and it “bears all things”.
We are commanded to love the Lord and one another; it is not a suggestion. “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31) And we are told that is how others will know that we are disciples of Christ. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
We are never told this is easy. In fact we are told “walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us”. Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified on a cross along with a murderer and a thief even though He did not sin as “an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma”. We are to imitate the Lord, so we need to realize that loving others won’t be easy, but it is what the Lord commands us to do.
We are in Christ and we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Him, including loving in the Lord’s power and not our own. “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) Let’s imitate our Lord as He commands. If we aren’t abiding by His Word, then we haven’t taken off the old self. “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8) I encourage you to ask the Holy Spirit to show you where you still have “on the old self” so that you can choose to take it off along with the day’s makeup, and walk in love!