Is it possible to “Imitate God” and live on earth?
“Imitate God,” urges St. Paul. Jerry looked up at me and said, “How in the world am I to do that and raise my family too?” He added, “Isn’t Paul, asking a bit too much?” Before we walk away from Jerry’s question wringing our hands, let’s look more closely at what St. Paul is asking.
God said, “I am your God and you will be my people.” That doesn’t sound too hard to understand. God has given us an abundance of life over the years. He called us from sin, adopted us as family through our Baptism, and asks us to listen and follow his Son for the rest of lives. And if we do listen, doing the best we can on this earth, we will inherit heaven and live with Him forever. So far that sounds like something we can all do.
With the arrival of Jesus, the word made flesh, we received further directions. Jesus asks that we treat others as we would like to be treated. We like kindness, don’t we? We like gentleness and respect. We have a hope of getting along with our neighbors in peace and harmony. We see all these qualities as providing a fruitful daily life for raising our families and living in our neighborhoods.
Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life, preached a tougher message. He encouraged us to show mercy and forgiveness to those who wrong or hurt us. He felt it was better than carrying grudges which extracts healthy, fresh air from our present moments. When this happens, we lack love and lose the freedom to choose forgiveness.
If Jesus always forgives us when we wrong him, why can’t we do the same for those who wrong us? Jesus doesn’t waste His time bearing grudges. He forgives us, restores our dignity, and says, “Go and sin no more.”
He trusts us not to sin. And even if we still stumble, Jesus lifts us up, dusts us off, and sends us on our way. In this way, Jesus is imitating God his Father, isn’t he? Like His Father, He doesn’t want anyone to perish either.
One of the many wonderful things about Jesus is he doesn’t check the record book for our past offenses. Jesus forgives and says, “Try again.” Neither does Jesus look to see how many prayers we said lately. Nor does he count how many times we missed Mass this year. Jesus simply pours his mercy upon us when we ask!
Jesus doesn’t mention the neighbors we choose not to like or act rudely towards. He simply forgives us and again says, “Go, and sin no more.” I’m sure we can think of other ways we cause others pain, yet Jesus still offers us forgiveness and another chance.
The path to heaven begins here on earth with Jesus giving us this hint: “The measure by which we measure is how we will be measured.” When Paul is asking us to imitate God, Paul is not placing an unreasonable demand before us. He is asking us to remember the many reasons why, rather than how we can imitate God and that is easier!
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