If you start reading Ephesians chapter 5 at its beginning, you will miss the full power of a theme that moves like a golden thread through it. So read carefully Eph 4:32-5:2. As believers, we are called to model our behavior toward others on God’s forgiveness and grace toward us. We are to imitate God! (cf. Matt 5:43-48).
Paul contrasts this imitating-the-love-of-God lifestyle with the usual, pagan approach. Instead of treasuring others as brothers or sisters in the family of God, humans all too often use others for their own sexual pleasure and then brag about it (vv. 3-4). He warns that such an approach has no future in the new world God is planning (vv. 5-7).
Instead, believers are to turn from the darkness of their past and “walk as Children of light” (vv. 8-10), mimicking the Father’s love. Again Paul warns away from “works of darkness” done “in secret” (vv. 11-12). In contrast, we are to live in the light of Christ (vv. 13-14). Rather than wasting our lives in foolish drunkenness, we will “redeem the time” by offering thanks to God for His love toward us (vv. 15-21).
Paul extends his theme of imitating God’s love as he advises Christian husbands and wives. Christ’s self-sacrificing love for the church becomes the model for Christian husbands (vv. 25-33), while the loyalty of the church toward Christ becomes the model for Christian wives (vv. 22-24). Rather than using the gift of human sexuality in a debauched and selfish way, a Christian husband and wife are so focused on valuing and treasuring each other that they become one, “one flesh” (vv. 28-33).
“Be imitators of God as dear children.” By God’s grace, you are called today to live out that exhortation in your relationships with others.
Walla Walla University