Imagine with me for a moment. It’s early in the morning, and the last thing you want to do is get out of bed and go to work. Your mind is foggy, and your body feels sluggish. You think to yourself, “I have got to start going to bed earlier.”
You stand in front of the mirror and squint as your eyes take a moment to adjust to the bathroom light you just flipped on. As your eyes adjust to the light and everything comes into focus, you are startled at the image you see staring back at you. “Wow,” you hear your surprise out loud. You slowly raise your hand to gently tap the ends of hair clumps standing straight up in some places and sideways in others. You didn’t know your hair could do that.
Then to top it all off, you notice your face looks different than normal. You lean in to get a better look, and there it is, right on the tip of your nose is a big red zit. Feelings of disgust and frustration rise inside of you. You think to yourself, “How dare this mirror make me look so bad.” “How dare it point out my faults like that.”
So you do what anyone would do. You grab the mirror off the wall and stomp outside, where you throw the mirror onto the pavement and watch it shatter into several pieces. “There, problem solved,” you say with a sense of satisfaction.
Now I know what you are thinking, that’s crazy, why would anyone act like that? A normal person wouldn’t blame the mirror for the way they look. The mirror is simply doing what it’s supposed to do. It reflects the image in front of it, and it doesn’t change the image to make us feel better. It’s honest. So when we stand in front of a mirror and see something we don’t like, we don’t try to fix the mirror; we fix ourselves.
The Apostle James likens the Bible to a mirror. “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:22–25 ESV).
When it comes to the mirror of God’s word, we do act like crazy people. Maybe we don’t pick it up and throw it on the concrete, but we do walk away and immediately forget what we just read. We often read the Bible like it’s just a story or a book of a bunch of stories of other people. We don’t often read it as if it were a spiritual mirror showing us our blemishes, and when we do see that the people and situations in the Bible reflect our sinful nature, we tend to avoid it. Like avoiding the mirror, so I don’t have to see that there is a piece of lettuce stuck in my teeth.
Or perhaps we get offended by it or offended by the person sharing it with us. This passage challenges us to look intently into God’s word so we can see those areas that need some work. “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only” is the challenge and a challenge it is. It’s one thing to pop a zit, but it’s another thing to deal with my pride, un-forgiveness, lust, jealousy, idol worship, and on and on.
Here’s the good news. The Bible doesn’t just show us how ugly we are; it also shows us that despite our ugliness, God loves us and has even provided a way through Jesus for us to look less like our zit-faced self and more like the perfect, spotless lamb. I’m willing to bet that if you woke up looking like I described earlier, you would take whatever steps were necessary to fix what you saw, even if it meant you were a few minutes late for work. You wouldn’t blame the mirror, you would appreciate it and value it for helping you to see what others see, but you could not. I bet you wouldn’t even leave the house without looking in the mirror every day.
Yet, we run off into our day without ever taking time to reflect on the spiritual mirror of God’s word and apply it to our lives. We spend a lot of time making the outside of the cup look good and clean while the inside is filthy (Matthew 23:26-27).We tend to read the Bible or hear someone teach on a passage of the Bible and we think “yes, amen” and then walk away and completely forget what we just heard. Worse yet, we hear it and think about all of the people we know, thinking it applies to them without realizing that it’s our reflection we see, not others.
For the sake of everyone in your life, don’t leave the house without first looking in the mirror. For your own sake (and others), don’t leave the house without first looking intently into the holy word of God. We all have blemishes, but only Christ has the power to wash us clean.
Trevor Rickard is an Associate Pastor at New Life Christian Fellowship.