Many people understand God the same way they understand Santa. He is a jolly old man who wants nothing more than to make me happy; he is all-knowing and all-seeing, yet he only intervenes to bestow blessings on those who please him. If I am good enough, he will give me presents, he will love me. If I am bad, he will simply ignore me. That’s the most we expect of God. If we’re good enough He will love us—if we’re not, He’ll overlook our sin and let us go in peace.
Such a view is childish and simplistic at best, degenerated and reductionist at worst. It denigrates our Humanity, the nature of evil, and God’s Love. Sin is not merely the violation of some law, like driving 60mph in a 55mph zone, it is the corruption of our Humanity. It is an undoing of what we are—what we were created to be. It is an affront to the Creator.
On this view, evil is really not so evil. It is a childish prank, something we can laugh at or gloss over as youthful indiscretion. It is not the perversion of the Good. It is not the raising up of the self over and above the Creator. It is not the destruction of anything that isn’t finally ME. When understood properly, it can be seen just how evil demands justice. Demands for things that are twisted be straightened, things that are polluted be filtered, things that are stained be washed. Sin cannot merely be forgiven, it must be purged.
On this view, God will only love us if we are good enough. But with the corruption we bring upon ourselves, the vileness of our existence in the face of perfection—I can never do enough to be “good enough”. It is natural for us to think this way, for when someone is good to us, our affection grows for that person. This only shows the shallowness of our goodness. We tend to love people who are good to us and think God must be like us. So, if I’m good enough, God will love me (or worse yet—because I am blessed financially, in relationships, or in health this shows that God loves me and approves of me). How then, could I ever do enough good to appease the Being that I have sought to undo with my every act, word and thought? It is only once we come to the realization that our deeds are worthless in earning God’s love that we are ready to understand ourselves and God. C.S. Lewis wrote that, “God will not love us because we are good, but rather God will make us good because He loves us”.
God is not a Santa Claus in the sky. It is high time we stop thinking of Him as such. Maybe we should stop equating the visitation of a jolly old man who practices a strict works-salvation with the birth of the One who came to be the work for us that we may be saved.