“Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and bath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor.”
Imitate God, and walk in love!
That is an explanation of the first commandment. To imitate God and to walk in love is the self-same thing.
What does that mean? How am I to understand what it means to walk in love? What is love and what is my walk?
Your walk is not merely your manifestation in face, voice and deeds.
It is much, much more. Your face may be as an angel’s face, but your walk may be like the devil himself.
Your voice may be ever so sweet, so that people are charmed by your conversation, but it is very well possible that your walk is dark as darkness itself.
Oh, but your walk is ever so much more than the way you show yourself before the face of man.
I think that I may say that your walk is you!
And you are as your heart is.
From the heart are the issues of life.
If your heart is godly and good, your walk is bound to be good.
If your heart is evil and dark, your walk is abominable, even though your face may be wreathed in smiles and your voice ever so wonderful in its tone and quality.
Now then, your walk should be in love.
And what is love?
Love is God Himself. John has told us. God is love. And that means that in all His essence and life He is bound to Himself in the bond of perfectness. That is also Scripture. Love is the bond of perfectness! It is the tie that binds the perfect ones together in wonderful unity and peace. In the atmosphere of perfection the perfect ones seek one another, find one another and are bound to one another. They find their complete delight in one another. And they will sing of it forever.
For love is God, and God is love!
God walks in beauty.
In the beauty of His own love.
And you and I?
God tells us in my text to study Him and to watch Him how He walks in the beauty of His love, and then to imitate Him.
By walking in love.
Imitate God, as dear children!
That last phrase strengthens the idea of the admonition.
It is entirely comely that you should walk like your Father in heaven walks, for you are His dear children!
And certainly the child should be like unto the father!
Do you notice with me that you can do nothing with this text with regard to the child of the devil, be he in the church or without the church?
This text is for the child of God exclusively. It would have no sense at all to say to the unregenerate: Walk in love! Imitate God! For you are His dear child! If we did that we would be liars unto God!
Oh no, but this admonition is for them who are the dear children of God.
Who are they?
Well, in Paradise we were the dear children of God in Adam and Eve. These two were dear children of God. And unto them God said: Study Me in My ways and revelation! And then copy Me in your walk. From the heart out, walk in love. Draw near to Me in all your heart and thought and word and deed. And you will be happy.
Adam and Eve were happy, dear children of God. For a while. For a very short while.
For they fell.
They studied the devil, and imitated him.
They followed the devil; and he led them into untold misery. They did as the devil did, and they corrupted their way upon the face of the earth. And so it was that the whole earth was filled with violence.
By nature, we all are walking in the hatred of God and of our neighbor. And are very unhappy.
But God remembered His covenant of Love.
And from the very beginning He called His own from darkness to light.
He did that by spreading abroad the love of God in their heart. He gave them His own image again, but now the image such as it was exalted to the highest heavens. The love of God in God’s elect children is far sweeter than the love of God as Adam tasted it in his innocent heart. Later I will come back to that far sweeter love.
But now the child of God receives that far sweeter love in the hour of his regeneration, brought to consciousness in his conversion.
And so some of the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve become again dear children of God!
And to them He says in the words of my text: Imitate Me! Follow Me! Walk in love! For you are My dear children! The child should behave as the Father behaves!
Imitate Me by your walk of love! For you are My dear child!
But Lord, how am I to know how I must conduct myself in this walk of love?
And the Lord has given you an answer. It is in the text: “as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God!”
This brings me to a mighty and most wonderful thought. This reminds me of the sole purpose of the whole universe. It is this: God wants to show to untold millions how loveable He is. That is the reason why He created and recreated. He wanted to show us His walk in love.
A little while ago I promised you that I would come back to the idea of a sweeter love? Well, here it is.
Oh yes, if you would have asked Adam: Come, tell me, is God a God of love? he would have grown voluble in telling you of the love of God. He would have pointed you to all created things, himself included, and say and sing of the love of God as it was shown to him in the morning and in the night, in the lion and in the sheep, in the whale and in the eagle. He would point you to the blue canopy of heaven and tell you that it all spoke of His wonderful love and lovingkindness. And his song would end with a beautiful stanza about his own life in Paradise: this God loves me, O stranger! He loves me and He takes care of me from morning till night, And when I and my wife sleep in the garden, His care is over me and within me. I laugh and I leap for joy in this God of my love.
But if you were a child of God through Jesus Christ the Lord, you would have been able to tell Adam of a love that is infinitely sweeter than the love of God such as Adam knew. You would have told him of God who is now known as Jehovah, who came down to you in your hell and in your damnation, and Who in His Son Jesus Christ took all your hell and your damnation upon Himself in order to annihilate them, and that so completely as though they had never been.
Oh, you would have told him of the love of God’s walk in Gethsemane and on the accursed tree. And all for you!
You would have told Adam of a love that would come down and become a curse for you. So that you might become the blessed of the Lord.
And Adam would greatly wonder at such love.
And he would say: I know not! I cannot follow you! Your sermon is too deep for me!
The love of God’s walk is infinitely sweeter now than it was in that first morning in Paradise where Adam slept.
Adam knew of no forgiveness in the blood of Jesus.
He did know of a walk of love, but not of the walk of the bloody sacrifice and the burnt offering unto God.
God’s child in Jesus! You are infinitely richer than that first innocent child Adam in Paradise!
But there is your burden!
You must imitate that God who came to you in Jesus to prove and to manifest His wondrous love!
Oh yes, imitate God!
And to do it: look strongly on Jesus of Galilee!
Look around you in the church, and with the church, into the world round about you, and weep!
There is the fruit of the evil all around you. People walk as the Gentiles walk in the darkness of their foolish mind. And in the church there is also a remnant of that dark and evil walk.
Your brother will on occasion bind you and send you to Egypt. You will cry in the pit.
The power of evil, be it in the world or in the church of Jesus Christ, will lay you low in tears and bitterness. They will give you bread and water of affliction.
For God’s sake, for Jesus’ sake and for His righteousness’ sake you will be hated and persecuted.
Listen to your cry: We are killed all the day long! It is your cry is it not?
Oh yes, there is ample opportunity to live this text.
Do it then.
Walk in love in the midst of the devils and the children of the devil.
When they curse you, bless thou.
When they hate you, pray thou.
When they kill you, forgive them.
Walk in His love!
Prove to the whole universe that you are “dear children of God!”
Ah, but it is wonderful to be imitators of God!
That you may be unto God a sweet-smelling savor!
That is the only purpose.
When Christ hung on the accursed tree, God smelled of that sacrifice and He said in the heavens above you: Oh, but this love of Mine, there on that cross, smells sweet! It shall be to My glory and praise forever!
And so it is.
In the midst of the throne shall be the little lamb, standing as if slain. It is the reason for all the singing of heaven.
If you return evil for evil in evil hatred, God smells of you, and turns from you in Divine disgust.
If you love those that despitefully treat you, and if you live the life of the Lamb of God, God will rejoice in you.
I think of a certain strain of singing: Let God in His people forever delight!
Do it, beloved! Imitate God!
Through His wondrous grace in Jesus Christ our Lord!