Imitatio Dei

November 24, 2008


 I’ve been looking at the concept of “Imitatio Dei” as an authentic way of experiencing  the Divine (or the Spirit). In other words, by being “godly” or displaying “God-like qualities” we will have transformed hearts and minds. For example, God is compassionate, in Luke 6 Jesus commands us, saying: “Be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.” Therefore, if we show compassion to others, we will experience the Divine.

Is it possible that through living “God-like” lives that we experience God and this is central to the message of the kingdom of God?

Another example is found in 1 John 4:16: “God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect.”

 Marcus Borg says: “The ethical imperative is to live in accord with God’s character.”

When we couple this with Grace I find an immense sense of freedom to experience God in everyday activities and in others. This is not a legalistic approach that is focused on sin but a gracious life focused on discovering the heart and ways of God.

“And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.” 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (The Message)




9 Responses to “Imitatio Dei”

  1. Don Rogers Says:

    Absolutely, Andrew. In my recent study of M. Borg, I too have made the conscious effort to imitate our Source’s characteristics so that I might have that very experience.

  2. Andrew Says:

    Seems you’ve set straight a problem that the Church has had backwards for a very long time. The more liberal, Grace-based churches seem to focus on the fact that we can never emulate God, and that we aren’t required to try in order to earn favor from Him. The more conservative, Truth-based churches focus on the fact that we are required to try to emulate God, in spite of the fact that acceptance of Jesus is the only requirement for salvation.

    Your post here shows a rejoining of our schizophrenic idea of God. God’s Grace and Truth are one and the same! We are saved by the Grace of Jesus’ sacrifice and from our overflow of Love and gratitude we attempt to emulate the God who Graces us with Truth.

    Thank you so much for this post. Once again, a great reminder…

  3. Andrew Says:

    Hi there Don and Andrew

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    I think that idea of a “schizo” God is mainly due to teaching/understanding about the nature of God. How we view the Creator will determine how we will understand God’s response to creation/ the universe. Firstly, we need to see ourselves as part of a bigger picture. God’s grace extends to all creation (Matthew 5:44-46 , Matthew 6:26). Secondly, however, to experience God in our lives, we need to imitate/reflect God (2 Corinthians 3:16-18) . Jesus, through his life and teachings, invites us into a relationship with the Father that is about entering a Kingdom here on earth (now!!). Jesus called it the Way. It is way of living/seeing!!

    Maybe, I’m “off-track”, please feel free to openly disagree.


  4. ruZL Says:


    intuitively this makes a lot of sense – i look forward to exploring this with you off-line. which Borg book would you recommend by the way?



  5. Andrew Says:

    I recommend:
    Jesus: Uncovering the life, teaching, and relevance of a religious revolutionary.

    Be blessed!
    Lekker liewe in die Kaap!!

  6. nic paton Says:

    Nice chirping everyone.

    I had a thought based on Peter Rollins
    Belong-Behave-Believe inversion of the standard modernistic
    Believe-Behave-Belong trilogism.

    That is: belong-become-do. Or put another way, Include-Incarnate-Liturgise.

    So we need to find a place/site/community in which we can start to imitate God. This imitation is part of the process of incarnation.

  7. Andrew Says:


    The “belonging” in a broader way can also be viewed with the generosity of God’s Grace.

    The “behaving” is imitating God’s Character.

    The “believing” is…. I’m working on this one!


  8. nic paton Says:

    That’s the thing … in this scheme, the 3)doing includes mission, liturgy and theology.

    I think Rollins one aims to demote the place of belief, whereas this one atempts to draw a larger picture, not just to do with belief, but with, ultimately, Liturgy/Mission; God as a verb.

    I think Rollins is more focused, and this one has a broader application.

  9. Andrew Says:

    Yip yippidee yip,

    Me saying: …”i’m working on this one!” is what belief is… a progressive activity of faith and doubt. If we start with belief, our behaviour becomes static and governed. Discovering and understanding God through behaviour (liturgically/ missionally/ creativity/imitating) is seeing God as a verb. One of the ways that the Unknown is revealed is through our lives. That is why the verses above from 2 Corinthians are uber-cool.

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