Do you have any mirrors in your house? In our house, we have several, mostly over the sinks, where family members get ready. There are a few others, but I don’t think that they get used very often for anything except decoration. I also keep a small mirror around to inspect hard-to-see components (like inside the family’s computers, or maybe under the dashboard of a vehicle).
Have you ever thought about why we use mirrors? It is often just second nature to use a mirror, but I was pondering that question in light of the following passage, from the [highly-practical and tactical] book of James in the Bible:
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. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
James 1:22-25 NIV
There are at least three healthy uses of “regular” mirrors that I think are common, and which also relate to how we can live out what we learn from the Bible.
The first is for inspection. When I wake up in the morning, and need to go out into public (or just be polite to my family), it’s time to take an inventory of how bad my bedhead is. There are rare mornings when the hairspray from the previous day is still holding things together, but most mornings I need to take some action (or wear a ball cap).
When we read and study the Bible, if we don’t consider how our own lives measure up to what God teaches us in His Word, we’re missing a valuable opportunity. It’s like listening to a sermon and thinking that it only applies to others. When we look into that mirror of God’s Word, if we don’t evaluate our own current choices, we probably aren’t looking very closely. And, when we find things that we could change for the better, but don’t act upon them, we are like the first guy in the passage above: forgetting pretty quickly what we’re like (compared to what we should be).
Another use of mirrors is for improvement. When it’s time for me to shave, the mirror helps me make sure that I didn’t miss a spot (even if I can get pretty close without looking), or trim my beard (a by-product of staying at home a lot last year) evenly.
The Bible teaches us all sorts of ways to better serve God, obey Jesus, and listen to the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t merely contain a collection of knowledge and instructions; it also has wisdom and guidance for how to act upon that knowledge. If we just mentally absorb that information and don’t do anything about it, we’re like students who study only for the test, and never make use of their education in their future career (especially when it is specifically needed).
In addition, we use mirrors for validation. Women check their lipstick or mascara with a compact, but for guys like me, concerns revolve more around things like having food stuck in our teeth. Back in the day, I even used the shiny side of a computer CD occasionally to make a quick self-inspection. As we live out the better life that Jesus demonstrated for us, the Word of God helps us confirm that we’re on the right path.
In a world where many people teach from Scripture (usually doing the best that they can, although a few are deliberately deceitful), it’s important to double-check what God actually says. If our study of the Bible shows us that what we thought (or what we were taught) needs some tweaking, but we don’t actually make that correction, we may as well have forgotten what we saw when we looked into Scripture for that checkup.
Now, I realize that for some, mirrors can become an unhealthy obsession. While I don’t know what it would look like to live “too much” like how the Bible teaches us, I do think that we can become so focused on our behavior that we miss out on God’s grace, mercy, and leading. Let’s not get stuck on legalism as we use what we learn in the Bible for good: our good, others’ good, and the good of the Kingdom of God.
So, I hope that you are getting into the Bible (and listening to God’s voice) for your own inspection, improvement, and validation every day. When you and I do so, may each of us make good use of the time after our Bible study to live it out. After all, why even look into a mirror if we’re going to forget what we saw, or not do anything about it?
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.