Walk In Love
Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Avengers, and Titanic. What do these four movie/movie franchises have in common? I think there are two things: One, they are four of the top ten highest-grossing movie/movie franchises of all time. Two, they all portray some level of self-sacrificial love. I do not think it is an accident that these two things go hand-in-hand. I think we live in a world that desperately craves this kind of love. Something deep inside us resonates with the idea of sacrificing ourselves for the sake of others. Hence, why these movies are so extremely popular.
Ultimately, the idea of self-sacrificial love comes from God. Our passage in Ephesians 5:1-2 reminds us of that. After laying out a vision for Christ-centered unity, holiness, and righteousness, Paul calls us to "be imitators of God, as beloved children" and to "walk in love."
I think the first important piece to see in verse 1 is the term that Paul calls his readers: "beloved children." If we are in Christ, our primary standing before the Father is as His children, which He loves. Christians don't eventually become children of God. If we are in Christ, we are God's beloved children in the present! Before we get to the command for us to walk in love, we are reminded that God loved us first. "We love because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). C.S. Lewis has this great paragraph in Mere Christianity:
"...the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him."
That leads to God's command for us to imitate Him. We often need to be reminded of God's love for us if we are to "imitate" (walk in holiness, sanctification, etc.) Him. We imitate God's holiness precisely because we are His children, and we want to be like our Father.
You may ask, how do we do this? I think too often we overcomplicate things, trying to scheme and come up with strategies to "engage God better," etc. In reality, it is doing the simple (simple, not necessarily easy) things God has called us to do: read His Word, spend time speaking with Him in prayer, gather with other believers (both inside the context of church gatherings and throughout the week), confess sin and pray for one another, serve one another, study the Bible with other believers, imitate the love of Christ to the world, and limit distractions and entertainment in order to spend more time with the Lord. We don't necessarily need to add strategies or "pro-tips" to that list. We will spend a lifetime trying to work on and practice these things.
In verse 2, we are called to "walk in love." The life of a believer should be marked by love. Jesus says it like this in John 13:35:
"By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
Christians should be known for their love.
In the rest of verse 2, Paul tells us what this love looks like: "...as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." This love is sacrificial. And Christ is the ultimate model of this kind of love. He sacrificed Himself for us as a substitution. It was Christ's love that led Him to satisfy the wrath of God on our behalf, all for the glory of the Father.
The only way we can walk in this kind of love is if we have experienced the self-sacrificial love of Christ in the Gospel. He purchased, with His blood, the ability for us to walk in love. And He is the ultimate example of this kind of love. S.M. Baugh sums it up well:
"The point is that this sacrifice pleases God in fulfillment of his commands and satisfies his justice. In Christ alone, divine justice and unfathomable love kissed to fulfill at once all the Old Testament sacrificial types and as a result provide the supreme model for the believer's own grateful, self-sacrificial acts of love."
Sermon Series: Ephesians: Church Alive In Christ