“Dear friends, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. Anyone who does good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God” (3 John 11)
I remember as a young boy always getting very frustrated when my little sister would mimic me. She would imitate every little thing I did, however inconsequential it was that I did, down to every word. My parents always told me that she did so because she wanted to be just like me, and it was her display of her respect for me. Our respect for Jesus Christ should stir the same response. Imitation being the highest display of flattery and respect, we need to imitate Christ on earth. It is no easy task, but nevertheless it is our aim.
Notice that the action is not secluded to any one sect or group of people. Anyone who acts righteously will express the rewards of adoption from God. Also notice that the actions do not permit future reward, but merely reflect past relationship. It is not that acting righteously grants us adoption by God, but it simply reflects the stance one already has obtained freely from the grace of God. Notice the positional emphasis in the imperative given in Ephesians 5:1, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” Just as in the way that my little sister’s imitation of me was simply because of the relationship we had already had, so are our actions once we are adopted into God’s family.
In the last clause of the verse, John reiterates that imitating evil is not secluded to any one sect or group of people. Anyone who acts unrighteous will express the condemnation of separation from God. Everyone is imitating something, the real question is, what exactly are you imitating?
One of the most interesting calculations presented through John’s letter is this notion of equating one’s sinful condition with one’s faulty vision of God. The conclusion drawn is that if we were to see God perfectly, we would behave perfectly, and not sin. One’s theology directly corresponds to their doxology. 1 John 3:2-3 also alludes to this concept in that the day we see Him in all His glory, will be the day we are made like Him.
I would propose that every sin of commission or omission stems from a bad view of God. We may negate missions because we do not see God as a god who desires all nations to know His name. We may fall into sexual immorality because we do not know that God’s will for our lives is that we flee from this sin and learn to control our body. All in all, the day we see God perfectly, is the day that we sin no more. The day where we see perfect theology is the day that we will glorify God the greatest, when we perfectly imitate Him. I am forever in pursuit of this perfection. May God work in me violently.