There is an undeniable stream of thought in the New Testament epistles that call believers in Christ to imitate God. The most clear of all these is Eph 5:1: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children . . .” (cf. 1 Cor 11:1; 1 Thess 1:6; 3 John 11). This stream of thought is vital, both to the Christian doctrine of God and the practice of Christian ethics and mission. Certainly our imitation of God is grounded into our incorporation into Christ by the Spirit. That is clear throughout the New Testament. The call to imitate God is not moralistic in any sense, let alone some sort of call to supererrogation. Rather it is a call to be conformed, in reliance on the Spirit of Christ, to the image of God revealed in Christ. The remainder of the passage in Ephesians bears this out explicitly: “. . . and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph 5:2). To imitate God is to live, to abide in the mode of Christ’s own agape which was revealed in his cross and resurrection.
The point of all this is to say that when the New Testament calls us to imitate God, it is clearly calling us to take on the agapeic qualities of Christ. For the New Testament authors, this is what God is like. To be like God is to live in and practice the radical agape of Christ through the Spirit of Christ whom God has sent to us.
As such, any image of God which seeks to curtail, modify, or circumscribe this vision of God-as-agape is to be rejected. Any portrait of God’s moral character that seeks to “balance” the love of God as revealed in Christ with God’s “other attributes” is to be rejected out of hand. The litmus test for this lies in the call to be imitators of God. Would anyone be pastorally comfortable calling people to imitate God’s supposed overflowing wrath against sinners? Of course not. The claim is then made that we are not to imitate “those” aspects of God—those are God’s prerogative, not ours, it is claimed. However, the New Testament does not make any such distinction between God’s supposed attributes. The New Testament simply calls us, as those led by the Spirit, to be conformed to God’s own moral character, which is the character of Christ. We are not called to imitate God’s “nice side” and leave God’s “dark side” alone. We are called instead simply to imitate God. And for the New Testament this means manifesting the radical agape of Christ. This is what God is like and anything that seeks to balance or mitigate this is foreign to the New Testament and the nature of Christianity itself.
In short, if your theological image of God is one that you’re not willing to call people to imitate, you probably have some false ideas about God. Any God that cannot be imitated in a way that is moral, righteous, and worthy of praise by human beings is not the God that the writers of the New Testament knew.