A Twitter friend of mine who pastors in Germany, Phillip Burton (@ktownpastor), sent out this tweet yesterday that got me thinking:
It’s always interesting to me how #God seems to #call us to the very people we once held the greatest #judgement and disdain for.
When I was an adolescent I developed a strong distaste for religion. Since I was surrounded by religious people this became a problem. As time marched on I began to hate church in general. Since both of my parents are ministers this was an inconvenience as well. By the time I graduated high school I wanted nothing to do with churches or the people who attended them. Fast forward twenty years and here I sit reflecting on this after a fun day at my office…at a church…where I am on staff as a pastor. I cannot help but chuckle. God has a funny since of humor. And as Phillip said in his tweet, He does seem to call us to the people for whom we once held the greatest disdain.
The bible is a mirror. Consider James 1:22-24:
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
If I am willing to look into the mirror I will see the truth about myself. Yet, I often walk away from the mirror without having seen myself clearly. Is the mirror broken? It is true that until we see Christ face to face we are only looking through a dark mirror (see 1 Cor 13:12). However, the problem is not in the mirror that gives the reflection, but in my heart that skews my perception. This is an ancient problem. When Moses would leave the Tent of Meeting (see Exodus 33:7-11) his face would reflect the glory of God like a mirror. The reflection was so strong that Moses placed a veil over his face, because the Israelites could not bear to look into the mirror. According to scripture a similar veil lays over our hearts, and the only thing that can remove the veil is Jesus Christ (see 2 Cor 3:12-18).
Now that I am one of those religious folks that I use to hate I can feel pretty good about what has been said so far in this post. I can shout a hearty amen to the thought that I have had my veil removed and love to peer in the mirror of the word. I can boast that I now enjoy the radiance of the glory of God. I do not run from it like the wretched and blind. The only problem is that this is not the end of the story. You see, the mirror of the word tells me that there are also mirrors in life. Things that, if I am willing to take the veil off of my heart, will reflect my image to me just as clearly as scripture itself. This is how I know that:
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Romans 2:1
Have you ever heard the statement, “If you point a finger at someone else, you’re pointing three at yourself?” Here is that idiom’s prooftext. Paul is saying in essence, “When you start judging others it is a sign and symptom of your condition. Moreover, not only are you condemned at that moment, but your guilt is specifically tied to the very thing that is causing you to condemn others.” The judgment in my heart is a mirror of my soul, perhaps the most difficult mirror of all in which to set my gaze.
I have a confession to make. As I chewed on these thoughts this afternoon I came up with all kinds of examples of this type of judgment. Specific instances where someone’s critical and hateful posture towards certain people was really a sign of their own unaddressed and deeply repressed issues. It was kind of fun to create that list. To think of all of the hypocrites out there. All of those who stand condemned in the filth of their own condemnation of others. It seemed to me that they deserved what was coming to them.
However, through the process of writing this post God revealed to me, in His love and grace, the truth about my own hypocrisy. He showed me that I had left the path of Christ. And it is away from my condemnation and back to Christ that I now choose to run. For it is only in Christ that there is no more condemnation (Rom 8:1), and it is only when I am beholding Him that I will be truly transformed into His image:
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 from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Cor 3:18