The Bible as … Part 2: Mirror
One of the distinct features of the Old and New Testaments of the Biblical text is the display of both the virtues and the vices of its heroes. Aside from Christ, who is clearly unique as God the Son, the primary players in the Biblical narrative show up with both their dark sides and noble sides. David, perhaps the most beloved of all characters, is both said to be a “man after God’s own heart” and an adulterer/murderer. Peter denied Christ multiple times. Thomas struggled to believe.
Part of what this tells us is that virtue and vice are parts of the human experience. Certainly, as we explored in part 1 of “The Bible as …”, the Bible gives us a vision that transcends our virtues and vice, but dealing with the mixed motives and complex behavioral patterns of our lives is critical in moving toward the vision of a spiritual growth. Brennan Manning once quipped, “When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.” The reality is that even in our best moments, we have mixed motives. To deny this reality would be to deny the Biblical portraits of the holy men of old.
Hebrews 4:12 tells us that ”the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” How does the Bible do that?
The Bible is a text in which the Father desires that we see ourselves. In that sense, we need to understand that the Bible as mirror. It reflects life accurately and therefore reflects back to us the realities that are present in our lives. There is both a convicting and an encouraging aspect to this reality. First, the Bible convicts us of those ways in which we choose other than Christ in our daily lives. Second, the Bible encourages us to view ourselves in terms of the true desires of our hearts.
Because grace is at the foundation of the Biblical text, there is a freedom to see ourselves in the mirror of Scripture without fear and there is the admonition to see ourselves with no pride. Many have eschewed this kind of introspection as dangerous because it can lead to becoming preoccupied with self. Certainly, this is a danger but inherent dangers in something do not require the abandonment of it. If that were the case, we would never drive cars or perform surgery or use knives.
James 1:22-25 uses the image of the Bible as a mirror when it confronts this danger. “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.”
The point is to respond to what we see in the mirror. Both the conviction of the mirror and the encouragement of the mirror push us to the same place, an active dependency upon Father.
Challenge: take some time in the coming days (or, even a few minutes right now) to read through the account of David’s confession in Psalm 51. How do you see yourself in His words? There are deep words of confession as well as hope and desire for God. With what do you need to trust God? Your own sin or your deep desire for Him? What will it look like to trust Him?