The Image of God in Practice
Remember when Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan?
A man from Samaria sees a Jewish man lying in a ditch, the victim of brigands. And the Samaritan, rather than passing by on the other side of the road, stops what he is doing and picks up the victim and takes him for help.
For Jesus, it was matter of loving your neighbor as yourself. But, according to the parable, this does not mean simply loving your neighbor instead of yourself, as though to favor the neighbor with the same sort of love with which you favor yourself. It’s so much bigger than that. It is taking up the life of your neighbor and making it your own life, of hoisting the neighbor onto your shoulders and bearing his or he life as though it were your own life.
It is precisely such radical and other-directed love that manifests the image of God.
Indeed, the triune God in relation – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – pass back and forth a never-ending torrent of self-giving love from one to another.
Here’s what imaging God means in practice: ministering to people at the point of their deepest needs, no matter what the cost to us; putting down one’s own life and bearing up the lives of others in their troubles.
Putting down . . . and picking up. It is that for which we are made. It’s our reason for being. We are men and women made for others, made to image the self-emptying love of God.
‘But,’ says the cynic, ‘doesn’t such love require a complete re-orientation of who we are, since we are all naturally self-focused, since we are all chronically self-grasping, since are all compulsively self-seeking. Change of who we naturally are would require something supernatural.’
It’s why we need Jesus. We can’t image the self-giving love of God unless Jesus, the ultimately self-giving one, comes to live within us, and reproduces his love in our hearts. We need Christ in our innermost beings, replicating his self-emptying goodness from within.
With Christ in our hearts, can we be fully human, imaging supernaturally the self-giving love of God.