One Way to Imitate God: Pursue Others
For those of you who were not present to hear Jesse's message on Sunday, please do yourselves a favor and listen to it here. It was simply and profoundly inspiring. As he reminded us about God's relentless and merciful pursuit of us in our wanderings and rebellion, my soul was stirred afresh as I was reminded of the wonder and the power of God's great love for us, for me.
So it got me thinking... And as I've meditated on the reality that God's merciful pursuit of me has been the deciding factor in maintaining this unfathomably glorious relationship that I have with Him, I have been struck by the fact that we, His children, are called to imitate Him in this pursuit.
As Ephesians 5:1-2 exhorts us, we are to "be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us..." You see, God mercifully pursues us, even in our most rebellious moments, because He loves us. It is this divine love, displayed so profoundly and completely at the cross, that leads Him to save His enemies and maintain relationships with unfaithful friends (that's us). This is why He pursued Jonah, this is why He pursued Nineveh, and this is why He pursued, and continues to pursue us! Let that sink in.
As we let this reality penetrate our souls, this passage in Ephesians tells us that we are to do the same. As beloved children of the living, loving God, we are to pursue others mercifully and relentlessly. Moreover, we are to pursue both those who are God's people and those who are God's enemies...just like our merciful Father (see Matt. 5:44-45). So let me ask you: how are you doing in the area of loving, biblical pursuit of others? How are you doing in seeking to imitate your merciful and loving Father by pursuing others for their good?
Now, on Sunday, Jesse rightly helped us to consider how to apply this message by challenging us to think about how we might be struggling to imitate God in this way by harboring anger or bitterness towards those who we, perhaps even understandably, see as enemies. As God continues to work on our hearts in this crucial area, I want to ask us to consider how we are doing imitating God in the area of pursuing those who, like Jonah, are God's people, those who we know as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Take a moment and read Hebrews 12:12-15. In this passage, the writer of Hebrews uses the body of Christ picture to exhort each member of the church to intentionally pursue the other members of the body so that the body will remain spiritually intact. This is not just advise...this is absolutely essential in order for the church to function like it's supposed to. Here we are called to imitate God by making sure that "no one fails to obtain the grace of God" as we do life together. This is a critical way in which we can apply Ephesians 5:1-2 in our relationships with one another.
So while we continue to ask ourselves how we can allow God to give us the grace to love our enemies, let's not fail to pursue imitating God is being conduits of grace to one another. Here are two ways that you might begin to apply this:
1. Next Sunday, start a conversation with someone you don't know well
Put simply, we can't know how others need grace if we don't know them. One
way to apply this passage is to pursue someone at our Sunday church
meeting who we don't know well simply in order to change that. Redeemer
Church, let's really get to know one another (including our guests!) We must
strive to create a culture of love and acceptance in our church...I cannot stress
this enough (and neither can the writer of Hebrews).
2. Make it a point to attend a community group this week
As much as we need a culture of openness and intentional pursuit on Sunday
mornings (again, we do!), they are simply insufficient to grow in God-imitating,
loving pursuit in the way this passage in Hebrews calls us to. Have you
considered that those in our community groups might be in need of grace that
God wants you to deliver to them? Maybe for some of us, if we viewed
community groups as a way that God wants us to lift the drooping hands and
strengthen the weak knees in our midst (if you didn't read the Hebrews
passage above you may be scratching your head - so go back and read it :-))
rather than a way for us to be served, we would be more zealous about
being a part of them. Make no mistake, you need this grace as well, but you
are also called to deliver it to others. And community groups are the very
context for this.
By pursuing one another in order to extend the God-given grace we've been given, we imitate our Father who mercifully and relentlessly pursues us. This is the wonderful privilege we have as God's beloved children. So as we consider how we can do this in every relationship God has placed us in, let us boldly pursue this with one another.