But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. James 1:22-25
This parable by James reminds us that simply hearing the Word and not acting on it, is like looking at your face in the mirror, then walking away forgetting what you looked like. It forces us to ask the question, “Does my understanding of the scriptures govern the way I live?”
Consider these words from a hymn written by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette (Upper Room Books, 2009), entitled “Be Doers Of the Word Of God“:
Be doers of the word of God,
Not simply those who hear.
Be ones who look into God’s word,
Obey, and persevere.
May we be doers of the word;
May faith shine through our deeds;
And as we seek to trust in God,
May ethics follow creeds.
For many today, their shining light is one that emanates from an individualistic culture that increasingly places the individual at the center of their own universe. They, not God, become the focus when looking into the mirror, so the only reflection they see is self-centeredness.
In light of this discussion, let me share an excerpt from the Apostle Paul’s first epistle to the young church at Thessalonica; a passage that provides a glimpse into the mirror of the faithful – even in the face of persecution.
For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy( of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.
Jesus calls us to be in the world, but not of the world.
This paradox has been lived out by Christians throughout history, and must continue today where Christianity finds itself at odds with political ideologies and social cultures. Obedience to this call is necessary, if we are to be a shining light to those, of the world, who live in spiritual darkness.
While visiting the Monastery of St. Benedict in Norcia Italy, for a glimpse of early Christianity, American writer and religious commentator, Rod Dreher, contemplated on how this little town in the mountains could have lit the spark that “kept the faith alive in Europe” during a time in history when the paganistic Roman Empire was crumbling into ruins, and it was hard to make sense of what was happening in Europe – much like the America we live in today.
Dreher postulated that the faithful today are being overwhelmed by “the power of popular culture”, to the point of retreat, in essence, becoming “strangers in exile” – a postulation, to which one of the monks made the point that, “Christians must not become so anxious and fearful that they cease to share the Good News, in word and deed, with a world held captive by hatred and darkness.”
Let those of us, who by grace were given the gift of salvation, first seek divine wisdom to help us discern what we are hearing from the Word, then exemplify that with our deeds – so that when we gaze into the looking-glass, the reflection we see, is the person God wants us to be…
a person in His likeness.