Ephesians 5 starts out with a pretty hefty commission: to be imitators of God.

You know. YAHWEH GOD. The all-power, perfect Being who created the universe, Who parts seas and keeps burning bushes alive, Who raises the dead and forgives sins, Who is always fair and just, slow to anger and abounding in love. That God.

Seems like a pretty tall order to start with! And not only that, we must also be like Jesus, who walked in great faith and love, living a sinless life and then enduring unimaginable suffering on the cross for the redemption of all mankind.

No pressure!

But I absolutely love the perspective The Message Bible brings to these opening verses in Ephesians 5. It so beautifully weaves in angles of childlike adoration, achievable goals despite our sinful state, and the power of godly love that changes not only our lives, but the lives of those we show it to:

“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.”

When I read this passage, I realize I don’t have to be perfect to do God’s will or imitate Him. I need to model myself after His way of being, certainly—but that’s not something I can do stumbling around in the dark, guessing all over the place! And these verses give us a great perspective on where to start.

I need to keep company with God—in prayer, praise, and reading His Word. I need to watch how God was and is with people and make that my way of being, just like I learned compassion and ministering from my earthly parents. I need to be open to learning—which means being open to correction!

Observe how Christ loved us? I can do that! Not only in my personal life and the testimony of others, but the Gospels are also some of my favorite records in the Bible. Love selflessly and extravagantly—that’s exactly what I want to do! And I want Jesus to teach me to do it better, every day!

Being imitators of God and Jesus can seem like a daunting task at times. But when we break it down to the meaty center, it’s really about being in relationship with them intimately enough that we learn how to live a life of love and sacrifice, of putting others first, of thinking of ourselves less and others more. We learn to imitate God by being in relationship with Him; we learn to imitate Christ by studying how he loved, and walking in his footsteps.

It’s a relational charge. An intimate one.

It’s our call to love and action.