1Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Paul has just finished giving a list of behaviors that we should follow. Now he is talking about imitating God. While some might see this as a bouncing between legalism and faith, this actually makes sense if you view Paul's list of behaviors as a vision of what being a Christian is all about. Here is what it looks like to imitate God, as His beloved children. And when we look at a picture of something, we know that we are only seeing in 2 dimensions what actually exists in 3 dimensions.
I have a 9 year old son. I love to joke around, and so does he. I like the Chicago Bears, and so does he (even though we live near Indy, and the Colts train in our town). The Colts are our second favorite team. At this age, he is not ashamed to imitate me, and I don't mind it either.
Is he a perfect imitation of me? No. Sometimes he carries things too far. Other times he just takes off on his own. But he loves me and I love him. I see that as a picture of our relationship with God. If we love Him, are in awe of Him, and want to be like Him, we will strive to imitate Him. Paul has spent some time trying to help those in the faith develop what that should look like. Then he goes into these verses to make sure we are not getting the wrong idea and trying to work our way to salvation.
He calls our redemption through Christ an offering, a sacrifice. It is not an obligation. God did not force Christ to suffer wrath for our sin. Our response, if an imitation of the original, should be the same: not forced obedience, but sincere imitation from the heart of a child who truly desires to be like his Father.
Jesus said it simpler, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice."