A noisy crowd surrounds each one of us. Wherever we go this crowd goes with us. We are never alone. The voices of the crowd never go silent. No matter how loud we speak their voices are louder. Who is this noisy crowd? The angels of God.
“Rabbi Joshua ben Levi said: ‘A procession of angels passes before each person, and the heralds go before them, saying, “Make way for the image of God!”’ (Deut. Rab., 4:4)
Having been created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26-27), every human being is an icon. Humanity was the first icon to be created. The angels surrounding us are in some way declaring that to honor the image, the human being, is to honor the Creator, the Holy One. We are the representative image of God on earth. What we do, say, or give to another we do, say, or give to God. Likewise what we fail to do, say, or give to another we fail to do, say, or give to God. This iconic aspect of our humanity has profound ethical and relational implications:
- Reverence for God is shown in our reverence for each other;
- Our fear of offending or hurting another human being must be as ultimate as our fear of offending or hurting God;
- Violence against another person is an act of desecration against God;
- Arrogance and condescension toward another person are blasphemous of God;
- The denial of another’s humanity is akin to the denial of God’s divinity; and
- Our love of neighbor mirrors and reveals our love of God.
“And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me’ … and ‘just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me’” (Mt. 25:40, 45).