About 10 summers ago a bunch of us guys were playing basketball at an all-church picnic, and it was hot. We divided into “shirts” and “skins,” and I was on the “skins” team. At the time, I thought I was in pretty good shape, so I didn’t give it a second thought. And when I saw someone taking pictures, I didn’t give that a second thought either.

The next Sunday, I was greeted by an elder who could barely contain his laughter. He said he especially enjoyed the “before” and “after” shots on a bulletin board of pictures from the picnic. Curious, I walked over to the display. Side by side was a picture of one of our college guys and me taken while we were playing for the “skins” team. It was obvious who was the “before” shot and who was “after.” I was shocked. I couldn’t be that out of shape!

My response is not unusual. Most of us glance in a mirror every day, but experts tell us that in some ways we are not really looking. We have a mental image of who we are, and we superimpose that picture onto what we see. It often takes a sudden “snapshot” to jolt us into reality.

There are two well-known passages in the Bible about mirrors. 1 Corinthians 13:12 states that we understand reality “dimly” this side of heaven. Ancient mirrors were often of poor quality, and it was tough to see a reflection clearly. Paul reminds us that even believers don’t have the full answer to many questions.

This truth should create a sense of gratitude and humility in us—gratitude that God knows us fully and someday we will know as we are known by Him. And humility because we don’t have all the answers. We simply live out a loving, growing relationship with Him who does. I believe this “mirror response” of gratitude and humility contributes greatly to our spiritual growth and makes the good news attractive to seekers.

The second mirror passage is in James 1:22–25, comparing the Word and will of God in our lives to a mirror. James reminds us of how easy it is to hear the Word and the voice of God’s Spirit but then not follow through. He likens our response to casually looking into a mirror and then forgetting what we saw altogether. James says that we need to look more intently.

I think James would agree with Paul that we don’t see everything clearly or understand everything fully. But that’s all the more reason to look intently to discern everything the Spirit wants us to know and apply. While the mirror response for Paul was gratitude and humility, the mirror response for James was gratitude, humility and obedience. Believers are often accused by non-Christians of being arrogant. Paul’s response addresses that. We are also often accused of being hypocrites. The second response addresses that. In both, we find joyful adventure!

May the Lord bless you richly as you look into the mirror of Christian life with gratitude, humility and obedience. But as you look into the regular mirrors of life, well, what can I say?

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