With children heading back to school and COVID numbers on the rise, the debate over whether to wear a mask or not has risen to a new level. Across the country, school boards are grappling with the issue of keeping their kids safe or exposing them to a deadly virus. Now I don’t really care if you wear a mask or not. It is, after all, a personal choice.
I should not say that I don’t care if you wear a mask or not because I do care. I care about your health and safety, and I care about my health and safety. Do I like to wear a mask, no I hate it, it’s hot, and my glasses fog up. But I will gladly make the sacrifice if it keeps one person from getting this nasty virus. What I do care about is your justification for not wearing one.
There has been all manner of justifications put forward by the anti-maskers, but by far, the strangest is the notion that it somehow desecrates the image of God. The rationale is that since all of humanity is created in the image and likeness of God, covering that likeness with a mask dishonors that likeness.
Of course, this idea of humanity being created in the image and likeness of God comes from the story of creation in the Book of Genesis. “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26) But what exactly is that likeness?
I would suggest that being created in the image and likeness of God has very little, is anything to do with physical appearance; after all, God has no physical form. Sure, as a Trinitarian Christian, I believe that Jesus is God and Jesus had a physical form, but their argument is not for the physical form of a curly-haired, dark-skinned man from 1st century Palestine. So again, I ask, what is the image of God they believe they are created in?
During creation, God spoke all things into existence with the lone exception of humanity. For humanity, God created it from the dust of the earth, and if you believe the story from a rib. But unlike the rest of creation, God breathed into humanity’s nostrils, God’s Ruah, God’s Spirit. God animated humanity with God’s very breath, breathing life into humanity at the exact moment of creation. That spirit has been defined as the Soul.
The Soul, like God, has no physical form, but it is believed to be the very essence of our being, the very center of our existence. Since the time of creation, philosophers, theologians, hymnographers, and the rest have been trying to figure out the Soul. If the Soul is the essence of humanity and it was breathed into us by God, then that Soul contains the very essence of God and includes the attributes of God.
Since God has no physical form, the only way to describe God is with the attributes of God, creator, sustainer, father, mother, love, peace, justice, mercy, care for all of creation, etc. Although these are human attributes and emotions, we reflect them onto God to understand what one cannot understand.
But let’s take that a little further. Jesus left us with a new commandment, love each other, care for each other, fight for each other. Jesus said that this is how others would know that we were His followers, followers of the way, the example left for us by Jesus himself. These are the attributes of Soul, the Spirit of God that was breathed into us, each of us at creation, the creation, and our creation.
So then to be created in the image and likeness of God, to be a follower of Jesus, the be human is to care for others and not just ourselves. Therefore, the fullest expression of the Image and Likeness of God is to wear a mask because you are expressing care and concern for others by wearing that mask.
Wearing a mask, and therefore showing your care and concerns for others is the ultimate expression of the Image of God!