Be you therefore followers of God, as dear children;
This figure of following may be drawn from any of several sources. A soldier follows his leader; and sometimes in Holy Scripture following is set forth by that figure. Scholars, also, according to the Oriental method of instruction, where the teacher walks in some shaded garden, follow their instructor. The Rabbi, in Palestine, with a band of disciples, moved from village to village, teaching the people; and so this, too, is a Scriptural figure. But the image we have here is that of little children following after their parents; and no picture could be more charming than that which rises to the imagination of everyone who has been blest in his childhood's home — the figure of little children watching their mother, running after her if she leaves the room, crying for her, clinging to her, asking to be lifted by her, dependent, seeking their own little liberty always within the scope of her eye. Now, we are to "follow God as dear children"; and He, therefore, is to be to us of necessity a Father, or we cannot follow Him as children. If, to our conception, therefore, He is a God of fate, whose decrees are fitful coercions: if our conception of God is that of one in whom is all power, and all will, and a rightful wilfulness, it is impossible for us to follow such an ideal of God as dear children. Or, if He be to our imagination intellectualized into an abstract God of perfect purity, with such a revulsion from evil, and discord, and sin that he cannot for a moment tolerate it in the universe, but sits conscious of His own everlasting purity, demanding purity in everyone inexorably, you cannot follow such an aspect of God as dear children. A child can follow a smiling mother or a benignant father; but you cannot persuade a child to follow a stern-browed stranger, nor anyone that stands in the attitude of a judge, whose face is clothed with frowns. Children flee from such a face. It is not in nature that they should be attracted to it. We may follow God by veneration, by a worshipful emulation; but it must be in such a way as dear children can follow. For there are, or have been, I doubt not, to every one of us, moments in which the goodness of our mother and the superiority of our father have acted back upon us, and we have been made to feel how inferior we are to them; and we look up to them, and we rejoice in that greatness which maker us feel how inferior we are. And so, a loving child of God may rejoice in his own sense of abasement and inferiority, because he loves God; and out of love there may come veneration, humiliation, and prostration of soul. The whole system by which men are meant, through a sense of their own sinfulness, to be humble and prostrate before God, is not only derogatory to the supreme idea of manhood, but is degrading to the sense of man; and men who are all the time looking at their own imperfections and sins, and studying them, and, as it were, stewing them in their own consciousness, and living upon a perpetual sense of their inferiority — such men are not wholesome-minded. That is not the way that dear children live at home. You would not let them. As little as you have of the Divine nature in you, you are conscious that that could not be the proper aspect of the experience of children at home; and that, if they love you and feel the warmth of your love, they cannot forever be abiding in a morbid consciousness of their own weakness, imperfections, and misdoings. There must be the upspring of hope, and faith, and trust, and love, or the child cannot be a dear child at home. And still less is fear compatible with following God as dear children. There is a filial fear. There is nothing more solicitous than love. The child, anxious to please, looks with waiting expectancy to see if its task has pleased father or mother. The child that is learning to write, or that is studying art, and, making sketches, brings them to the teacher or to the parent, comes with a kind of trembling apprehension lest they should not be approved. That is honourable. That has the approval of affection itself, and it is ennobling. But the fear of anger, the fear of penalty, the fear of our own suffering and loss, is admirable only in very remote degrees, and occasionally, when other motives fail. And yet, there is a filial fear, a love fear, which not only is permissible, but is honouring and uplifting.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;