A while back I read “Free of Charge” by Miroslav Volf. I believe I have mentioned in the past that I love Volf’s writing and speaking. He is wonderful. Here’s a quote from “Free of Charge” that I really enjoy.
God is an inexhaustibly fertile source of everything. But is it true that God demands nothing? If it were true, how could Jesus urge us, as he does in the Sermon on the Mount, to be perfect as God is? Here is what we do as worshipers of a Santa Claus God: We embrace the conviction that God is an infinitely generous source of all good, but conveniently forget that we were created in God’s image to be in some significant sense like God – not like God in God’s divinity, for we are human and not divine, but like God “in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24), like God in loving enemies (Matthew 5:44). To live well as a human being is to live in sync with who God is and how God acts.
“Free of Charge”, p. 26.
I bear the image of God. Therefore, I need to be like Him in His holiness yes, but also in His justice, His mercy, His grace, His generosity, His sacrifice, His suffering, His love. To bear the Imago Dei is a powerful demand and a powerful thing. To believe in a generous God should lead to us understanding and acting on the truth that we were created in the image of that generous God. The image we are created bearing is supposed to shape who we are and how we act.
That’s the problem with a Santa Claus god. Santa Claus doesn’t serve as a challenge to us to live in generosity and sacrifice (though the story of the real St. Nick should do just that). Nope Santa is culturally someone who just gives to us, supposedly when we are nice and not naughty, but usually no matter what. But a truly generous God Whose image we are created bearing, well that’s another thing all together. Being created in the image of that generous God calls us to live that image out. It calls us to give as God gives, to all who were created in His image.
In addition since there are traces of the Imago Dei (these traces are known as the vestigia Dei) all around us, we, as image bearers, should be drawn to and respond to those traces. While the saying may be that “Opposites attract” the reality is that we are drawn to things and people with which we have similarities. For an odd example consider the report that has been recently released by the Federal Reserve Board suggesting that people with similar credit scores tend to have more successful committed relationships. We connect more strongly with people and things with which we have a common resonance. Like attracts like.
Jürgen Moltmann writes that early Christians often preferred eros to the word agape when referring to our response to God’s love, because eros is a surrendering to attraction and desire, while agape reflects a self’s decision. Eros has God as the initiator and us as those who respond out of desire. If (and when I say “if” I mean “since”) there are traces of God’s image in the people (and creation) all around us, no matter how distorted those traces are, we should still be driven to love them because of the attraction we have to the traces of God’s image in them. The Imago Dei in us can’t help but be attracted to the Imago Dei we see in others. We are driven by the desire of “like attracting like” to love our neighbor because of the desire we have been created with to love God. Like a teenager who can’t stand to be away from her first crush, our desire for God should pull us.