If you have ever read the epistle that Jesus’ brother James wrote, you are familiar with this illustration. James writes about the disconnect that so often happens between what we believe and how we live.
To prove his point further, he uses an illustration that is applicable to every single person reading this today. Here is what he says:
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 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 (Js. 1:22-24).
In essence, we begin to live a Mirror Christianity in which we know what to do and how to do it but we neglect to actually be doers of what we hear. With this illustration, James is showing us the absolute ridiculous nature of this type of behavior. If someone was to ask you to describe what you look like, the majority of us would have no difficulty in doing this. We all woke up today and I am most certain glanced at or started intently into a mirror. We do this for obvious and practical reasons. During the day and at anytime, we are able to explain to anyone who asks what we look like. We are able to even describe in great detail what we like or do not like when we looked in the mirror. What makes us then mere hearers of the word but not people who are passionately pursuing to live out gospel-centered principles in our life?
What is the point of looking in the mirror anyway? We can answer this from a strictly practical perspective. Can we go a step further? James says that when we look into the mirror, we see our natural face. What does James mean when he mentions the mirror? He means Scripture, for by looking into it, we see ourselves how we really are. The mirror of Scripture does not lie or deceive us. We can deceive ourselves but Scripture is true and trustworthy. So when we read the bible, it lays bare for us our innermost condition and it does not look good. But the bible does not do this without any hope. We have hope. In the pages of Scripture we find the answer to the chaos that engulfs who we are.
James is pointing out something that goes well beyond the surface of our skin. Because we look in the mirror, which is Scripture, we see our natural face — meaning our sin-stained, rebellious state before we ever met Jesus. In this second chapter of James, the author is pointing us back to what happened in the third chapter of Genesis. James is pointing out the original sin that we all have been tainted by and were conceived in. When we forget about our depravity, we start backsliding in our spirituality. The more we understand our sin, the more we find satisfaction in our Savior. The more we understand the density of our depravity, the more we desire to pursue Jesus and find satisfaction in Him.
How can we avoid the misfortune of mirror Christianity? We must look intently into the only mirror that can actually provide for us an accurate reflection of who we really are. This is the bible. But we should not read it to merely make sure we are staying compliant with our reading plan. We must do so because we desperately desire to be like Jesus. Do you want to think like Jesus? Do you want to have the mind of Christ? Do you want to function and act like Christ? Do you want to know how Jesus thinks? Do you want to know how the mind of Christ works? The words written in your bible are the very thoughts of Christ. If we want to know how Jesus thinks, all we have to do is pick up the bible, read it, and put grace-empowered effort into doing what it says.
Question: How can we avoid the disconnect between what we believe and how we live? What practical steps do you take to avoid mirror Christianity in your life?