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
“…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….”
Could not be more true. Our hearts, mindsets need to be renewed in order to see how HE sees. So needed this, thank you for sharing this…
You’re welcome, Dulcinea. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Thanks for the comment on my blog.
I enjoyed this post (though the image threw me up, seeming very much like an eating disorder image to me, but that’s probably just my colored vision again) and found it very thought provoking.
Ha! Hadn’t thought about it, but you’re right. It does imply an eating disorder as much or more…but I guess in both cases it is a failure to accurately see the image in the mirror. Thanks for stopping by!
Hi, Jonathan…first of all, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I’ve never thought of Moses’ face after the Tent of Meeting in connection with the mirror of the Word…and it makes so much sense! I’ll definitely continue to think about that…such an interesting parallel there!
Secondly, thank you so much for your kind words on my recent posts and for sharing part of your own journey. I love how the Lord surprises us with His plans…and how trusting His leading is always so much better for us than we could ever anticipate. I’m so glad that you trusted His direction, because I’ve only been reading your blog for a short while and have already been affected (for the good! ) by the insights you share. Like you said — there is joy in writing as an offering and worship to Him…the change in my heart when I began to write with Him in mind was such a gift of grace! I don’t know where the plan goes from here, but I know that if I’ve shared His truths with anyone, then I’ve shared the most important Story there is to tell. And that realization changes everything.
(And last in this, the longest comment ever — I read your ‘about’ page and, as I am a born and raised CoG preacher’s kid, had an ‘it’s a small world’ moment…:) )
Christie, wow! It is a small world! Very cool! I’m glad you mentioned it. I also checked out your husband’s website, and I saw that you guys have three kids just like us. Good stuff! Glad we got connected and look forward to keeping up with your blog. Blessings!
I love this line: “Specific instances where someone’s critical and hateful posture towards certain people was really a sign of their own unaddressed and deeply repressed issues.”
Haha! Leave it to the Therapist in the bunch to highlight that line!
And, I love the picture that goes with the post!
I’m glad you loved it, Mrs. Stone!
Growing up there were three places I said I would never live…I have served in churches in two of those three places. The third was New Orleans…wonder when He will send me???
Ha! No telling where he’ll send you next!
Great post. Isn’t it amazing how we can come full circle back to the very places and people we seek to be separated from. I never thought I’d be in church much more serve in church either.
I am definitely looking more intently in the mirror and seeing things for what they really are. Many blessings to you Jonathan.
Well, Mr. Stone- I have to thank you for commenting on my post so that I came looking at yours! I was just talking about this idea with a friend of mine. I tell him that the more distaste you have for a certain group of people, the more likely–I feel anyways– that God is going to send you to minister to them, or be ministered to by them. We as Christians are called to love each other (and our neighbors) as Christ loved us—sacrificially and all consuming. We are called to be humble, and God loves showing us his grace by showing us the beauty to be found in those ‘odd relationships’ that we didn’t want in the first place.
Thank you so much for sharing! Really appreciated this.
Awesome! Isn’t it funny how God works that way? Taking us to the very people we are judging most? Ha! I love it when He does stuff like that!