One of the fundamental messages of Christianity is the proclamation that the human person is made in the image and likeness of God. We know that “image and likeness” means something other than physical image and characteristics and there are different ways to talk about what it does mean.
The way I most commonly think about our being made in the image and likeness of God is to focus on the Trinitarian nature of God. Since God by definition lives in relation, our being made in God’s image and likeness implies that we exist as relational beings, which focuses on our interdependence.
In the course of writing the book I’m currently writing on my conversion from Catholicism to Buddhism and back to Catholicism, I’ve been rereading my journals from various periods. Yesterday afternoon I came across in my reading something that offers another way to think about the meaning of our creation in God’s image. I wrote in my journal about being struck powerfully by a line in a sermon given by my friend John during a weekday Mass. John had said, “It is easlier to be thankful for a steadfast God than to live in the image and likeness of a steadfast God.”
At the time my focus was on the steadfastness of God. I relfected that our reactions to others are often changeable – we like someone, we don’t; we want to be with someone, we don’t. God has none of that changeability. God always loves and God always wants to be with us.
As I looked at the line again yesterday, it struck me as offering a way to think hard about what being made in the image and likeness of God demands of us. When we think of what it is about God we are thankful for – God’s unconditional love…God’s steadfastness…God’s forgiveness, etc. – we find a blueprint for what we should be aspire to as beings who are made in the image and likeness of God.
The gratitude part is easy. But trying to really live as beings made in God’s image and likeness is a worthy challenge. It is who and what we were created to be.