Being in God ’s Likeness by Asea Railean, Moldova
Good God, when we hear the children and the ministered adults and go to places unknown to be exploited sexually, forced to labor, beg or donate their organs, our hearts are filled with sadness and our souls revolt because their dignity and rights are being destroyed through threats, lies and violence. We raise our voices against this inhuman practice, against this form of slavery, and we pray together that it will cease. Give us the wisdom and courage to find and help those whose bodies, hearts and souls have been so wounded that together we fulfill your desire to be brothers and sisters. Make the exploiters stay with bare hands and help us proclaim to everyone freedom, which is your gift to all!
In the last day of creation, God said: “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26, NRSV). Thus, God’s completed work was with a “personal touch.” God made man from the ground and gave him life by blowing it from God’s breath (Genesis 2:7, NRSV). Thus, humankind is unique among all beings created by God, being formed both from the material part (body) and from the immaterial part (soul/spirit). To be made as God’s “image” or “likeness” means, said in simple terms, that we were made to be similar to God. The image of God refers to the immaterial part of humankind. It makes human beings different from the animals, God made them stewards over the other creatures of God (Genesis 1:28), and allows them to communicate with their Creator. It is about a mental, moral and social resemblance.
Mentally, humankind was created as a rational being, with a will. In other words, being able to think and choose. This is a reflection of God’s freedom and intelligence.
Morally, human beings were created perfectly innocent and clean, being a reflection of the holiness of God. God has seen all that God created (including human beings) and said of them that they are “very good” (Genesis 1:31).
Socially, humankind was created for communion. This reflects the triple nature of God and God’s love. In Eden, the first human relationship was with God (Genesis 3:8 implies that there is a relationship with God), and God created the first woman because “it is not good for a man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18).
Thinking about my Moldovan context and what human dignity means in my country, I am worried about the situation of elderly people we are working for, about the middle generation leaving the country for work abroad and leaving their kids behind, about human trafficking. Unfortunately, the situation is very bad, even if we have the freedom to choose, as one aspect of the fact that we were made after the likeness of God. Today we keep the likeness of God (James 3:9), but we also carry with us the scars of sin.
And if God created human beings in God’s image and likeness, it means that if we love God, we must love people exactly as they are. Lately, we’ve heard more about people with different health problems, about people who have been lustful, about people who have become dependents of alcohol or drugs, about victims of human trafficking or labor trafficking. Just as we love God, we also have to love these creatures created by God and pray for their healing.
ASEA RAILEAN is an Orthodox theologian and Co-President of the Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women.