The Image in the Mirror

The true reflection of who we are can complicate the missionary task.

“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.” (James 1:23-24 ESV)

Man in the mirror.

Those words are the title of an older pop song. The singer wants to change the world, but he recognizes that the starting point is to change the man he sees when he looks in the mirror. While the song tends towards self-help and self-improvement, it does bear resemblance to a biblical idea.

Mirrors are fascinating. So is our relationship to them. We love them. We hate them. We love to hate them. Looking into one can be helpful. Mirrors help us to admire, assess, and adjust. Sometimes we seek approval from mirrors. We want them to tell us good things. But looking into a mirror can also be hurtful. We often fear what a mirror might reveal. It might tell us bad things and we might disapprove of what we see. The mirror shows us what isn’t working and needs to be changed.

James used the metaphor of a man in the mirror to illustrate his point about hearing and doing the Word (1:22). He likened God’s Word to a mirror. When a man looks into a mirror, he is confronted with his image. When James uses the word looks, it means more than just a casual glance. It means to observe and think about what was seen. After seeing what the mirror reveals, the man has an opportunity to respond to what he observed. Will he make a change or walk away?

God’s Word confronts us with the image of who we really are. It reveals our worth as God’s image bearers, but it also uncovers the evil in our hearts, motives, and actions. We are broken, fallen people. We have all sinned, we continue to sin, and we fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). When confronted with this true image of who we are, we can’t just walk away and forget what we saw, right?

The image reflected in the mirror complicates the missionary task. This is the bad news of the gospel. Faithful missionaries hold up the mirror of God’s Word to expose the sin and corruption of the people they serve. Unbelievers don’t mind hearing about God’s love for them, but they often resent hearing about their personal sin. But the good news of the gospel can’t be appreciated without understanding the bad news of our sin. God showed his love for us in that while were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). That is good news.

Pray for those who hear the gospel proclaimed by our missionaries. Pray for our missionaries to have the strength and courage to keep proclaiming the gospel.

Let’s pray:

“Heavenly Father, use your Word to uncover the sin that demands my confession and repentance. Grant me the ability to respond to your Word as I should.”

Missions Prayer Focus: South Africa

  1. Pray for laborers to go to the harvest fields of South Africa as our teams need help.
  2. Pray for the people groups of South Africa. Pray that God would open their ears to hear and respond to the gospel.
  3. Pray for the safety of South African missionaries amid crime and corruption.
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