The time was that if you wore a mask into a shop you were probably going to rob it. I mean, why else would you want to try and hide your identity? Although, Zorro and the Lone Ranger were goodies and they wore masks, as did Batman. But on the whole those who wore masks in public were a suspect bunch. If you saw someone looking a bit shifty on the streets after dark with a stripy top, wearing a mask and with a bag slung over their shoulder, you’d probably call the cops.
However, from 24 July we’re all meant to wear face coverings when visiting the shops and other venues. Indeed, mask wearing has become a hallmark of responsible citizenship. Like many other people, it’s not something I’m especially keen on, but I’ll go along with it. We’ve all got to do our bit to halt the spread of Covid-19. Donning a face covering does make me feel a bit awkward, though and that’s not just because they make my glasses steam up.
Human beings are social beings and to live in a community with other people you need to be able to communicate. Yes, we communicate primarily with words, but body language and facial gestures are also important. That’s why electronic communications often involve misunderstandings. You can’t see the twinkle in someone’s eye when they type a gently ironic remark, so you’re offended at their cold sarcasm. You point this out, only for them to explain that’s not how they meant it at all.
Similarly with face coverings. We can’t always tell what’s going on behind the mask, a welcoming smile, or a tetchy grimace. Something essential to proper communication and interaction has been lost. The longing for community and communication is hard-wired into the human psyche. Christians believe that is because we were made in the image of God. The God of the Christian faith is not a solitary loner. In the one God are three persons; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who have ever existed in loving fellowship. Made in the image of God, we are social beings. We find the deepest fulfilment in our relationships with others, whether family or friends.
For reasons of public health we’ll wear our face coverings as the government requires, but they do act as a communication barrier. The sooner we no longer need the things the better. Sin acts as a barrier between us and God. It prevents us from seeing his glory and enjoying fellowship with him. That’s why Jesus came to die for our sins that we may be reconciled to God. As we turn to Christ the barrier is removed and we glimpse the glory of God reflected in Jesus’ face, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)