When one looks into a mirror, he or she is looking at a reflection of one’s own physical self, just as when one looks into a pool of still water. Solomon once wrote, “As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man” (Proverbs 27:19). We see ourselves as others see us and as we really are. When one looks into the word of God, he is looking into a mirror for the soul. James wrote, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was” (James 1:22-24). In this passage, the gist of the lesson is that when one looks into God’s word and discovers he is not in harmony with the word of God, he must change lest he soon forget all about his flaw and remains alienated from God. The word of God will indeed show us the doctrine we are to espouse and follow. It will reprove us when we stray to the right hand or to the left. It corrects us in the righteousness of God. The word does all of this so that we may be complete, able to know and do that which pleases God and have a home in heaven in the end (II Tim. 3:16-17). When we look into the word of God, we can see ourselves as God sees us and as we really are.
Now with this groundwork laid, we wish to put emphasis on another aspect of this picture. When we see a dirty face in the mirror, we wash the face, not the mirror! One can wipe away at that ink mark on the face in the mirror until their arm is too weary to hold up, and they will never remove the ink mark that is on their own face. In like manner, it is needful for us to wash the spiritual face we see in the mirror of God’s word, the mirror for our soul, rather than try to change the image in the mirror. The spiritual mirror, God’s word, is not the problem, it is you and I!
Often we witness those who have known what the Bible taught on certain issues, only to make efforts to change or even destroy the mirror of God’s word rather than admit sin and attempt to clean their own physical self in order to make clean that spiritual image seen in the word. In the days of the prophet Jeremiah, he wrote God’s word upon a roll of a book, exposing Judah’s sins and the need for them to repent and turn back to God and His ways. When Jehoiakim, the king of Judah, heard this book, “…when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth” (Jer. 36:23). By changing the image in the mirror of God’s word, Jehoiakim may have thought that he had alleviated his problem, but God’s word still stood firm (Jer. 36:32). Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matt. 24:35). Peter wrote, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (I Pet. 1:23). We simply cannot correct the flaws of the real face by attacking the mirror.
Many have been the man or woman who looked into the word of God and could see clearly God’s teaching concerning marriage, divorce and remarriage. Jesus said, “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doeth commit adultery” (Matt. 19:9). Yet, often they begin wiping away at the mirror of God’s word rather than correct the unscriptural marriage they have become a part of. Others do the same not because they realize their own marriage is unscriptural, but someone close to them is living in adultery. However, God’s word still says the same thing and their spiritual face is still unclean.
God’s word commands one to hear, believe the word, repent of their sins, confess Christ as the Son of God and be baptized into Christ for the remission of their sins (Rom. 10:17; Mark 16:16; Acts 3:19; Matt. 10:32-33; Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:3-4). However, many have seen this in God’s word, but because they want their salvation their way rather than God’s, they begin scrubbing at the mirror in an attempt to clean up their own unclean soul. Much as those Peter mentioned, they wrest the scriptures (II Pet. 3:16). The scriptures still say the same thing as they did before these attempts to twist it around to their own way of righteousness (Rom. 10:2-3), and they are still lost in their sins.
Another area in which this mirror wiping often occurs is in church discipline. Many can clearly see the sins exposed in God’s word, only to suddenly see a need to start cleaning the mirror when the error is on the part of someone in their own family. No amount of wiping the mirror will change one’s sins to righteousness.
Friend, when your life is not in harmony with the gospel, God’s mirror for the soul, it is your life that must be cleansed, not the mirror!
Robert Oliver is pastor of The Church of Christ and a long-time columnist for The Sampson Independent. Send any questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.