Becoming like God
If you ask people what human action most closely resembles the way in which God works with us, you get an interesting variety of answers. Some say that by being creative – assembling a piece of flat-pack furniture, writing a book or composing a tune, or mending something which is broken or dysfunctional – we closely resemble God.
Some believe that it is when we are caring for someone: visiting them in hospital or prison, feeding them when they are hungry, or rescuing them from some danger. Others say that it is in the process of conceiving and giving birth to a new human being, by being pro-creative, that we most closely resemble our Creator.
But each answer falls short of the mark: not because they are incorrect in themselves – each one is indeed related to a corresponding activity on the part of God; but in each case, the part which we play in them involves, and sometimes depends upon, using what others, besides ourselves, have already done: someone else created the flat-pack; we needed inspiration, often from someone else, to write a book or a melody; the sick person already has professional carers attending to them; the food given to others has been grown by someone else; we need a partner to be procreative. God, by contrast, is the Creator of all that exists: ‘It is he that has made us and not we ourselves.’
But there is one human action which perfectly replicates (to an infinitely slighter extent, of course!) the corresponding action of God: and it is what happens each time vie forgive someone.
God’s love for us was perfectly expressed in his redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ. God forgave us because of what his Son did on Calvary, summed up in those words ‘Father, forgive them’. In Christ he was, as St Paul says in 2 Corinthians, ‘reconciling the world to himself.
Likewise, when we forgive someone else who trespasses against us, we are behaving in a perfectly God-like manner. Forgiveness involves compressing all those faculties mentioned above into one single action.
Forgiveness makes us creative, since it involves mending an existing relationship which has been ruptured by the other person.
Secondly, we are caring for them. Caring for those we forgive does not mean ignoring them. Turning our back on those who sin against us is emphatically not what God does to us when we sin against Him. Like the father of the Prodigal Son, ‘while we are still far off’ He comes more than nine-tenths of the way to embrace us.
Thirdly, we are being procreative. As Jesus said, through our forgiveness we ‘gain a brother’. Every time we exercise our capacity to forgive someone, we ‘procreate’ an entirely new relationship between them and ourselves. We may have forgiven the same person on many occasions before: no matter. Each time we forgive them, an entirely new relationship, additional to the ones which already exist, comes into being. A ‘new’ brother has been begotten and come to birth in our lives.
So it is through the process of forgiving and being reconciled with our fellow men that we ourselves come to resemble most closely the God who loves us.