The One in the Mirror
James 1:17-27

Our world is a rapidly changing and sometimes scary place.  It’s hard to keep up with the changes in technology, culture, language, ethics and morals.  What we once considered foul has become accepted or common, we are exposed to far more through the media than we ever have been and it is all put down to people’s rights and freedom of speech and expression.  How are we as Christians to respond?  The book of James goes a long way to help us out.  Over the next five weeks we will catch glimpses of the wisdom that lies within.

The opening verses today give us a wonderful overview of what is to come.  “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, so that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all he created.” 

The one sure constant we have in this life is our Lord and saviour, he doesn’t change like shifting shadows, God isn’t hard to pin down, he was and is and is to come and is ever reliable.  He chose us through his word of truth and we are an integral part of the ongoing creative work in this world.  Why then do we become so destructive?  It makes no real sense that we continue to be self-centred and self-indulgent when we have such a loving and gracious God.

Hence James offers us instruction and admonishment as we hear again the word of God.  We should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.  This is pure common sense, and yet we struggle with it over and over again even though we know that anger usually doesn’t produce anything worthwhile.  James is encouraging the reader to get rid of all moral filth and evil and get back to humbly accepting the word of God that has been planted within us, the word that can save us!

Then he goes to the next step, saying that we shouldn’t just hear the word but take it to heart and follow through with what it says.  The illustration used is a common one that makes sense to us, the metaphor is the person who looks in the mirror and sees, yet when they walk away from the mirror instantly forget what they have seen.  The encouragement is to continue to gaze into and reflect on the perfect law of God and learn from it and put it into action not simply forget it as we walk away.

Michael Jackson’s ‘Man in the Mirror’ goes some way to using the metaphor of looking into a mirror to bring about change.  Let’s listen:
I'm Gonna Make A Change,
For Once In My Life
It's Gonna Feel Real Good,
Gonna Make A Difference
Gonna Make It Right . . .

As I, Turn Up The Collar On My
Favourite Winter Coat
This Wind Is Blowin' My Mind
I See The Kids In The Street,
With Not Enough To Eat
Who Am I, To Be Blind?
Pretending Not To See Their Needs
A Summer's Disregard,
A Broken Bottle Top
And A One Man's Soul
They Follow Each Other On
The Wind Ya' Know
'Cause They Got Nowhere To Go
That's Why I Want You To Know
I'm Starting With The Man In The Mirror
I'm Asking Him To Change His Ways
And No Message Could Have
Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World
A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And
Then Make A Change

This is a bit of a combination of the first half of our reading and the final admonishment to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  Rather than looking into the mirror and turning away and forgetting what we have seen and heard, this is encouraging a decision to change, to make a difference in the lives of others.  There is blessings in living in the freedom of the gospel, in knowing that we are set free from sin and able to respond in love toward others, maybe not the perfect love that God gives us, but a reflection of it.

How wonderful is it to see people at work caring for one another?  Isn’t it far better than seeing people live in squalor, or from seeing your own life caught up in the selfish needs and deeds encouraged by society generally.  In James we find great encouragement to look beyond ourselves and put into action the good news we have in Christ.  There is also a warning included in the last verses, we must be careful not to be doing good works to bring credit to ourselves or to try and win salvation.  This is worthless!

How can we make a difference in our lives and in the lives of others, what can we learn?  We have been born anew in Jesus, yet we still get caught up in anger, bitterness, jealousy, envy, and the list goes on.  God will not desert us, but will remain with us and be our strength and shield throughout it all.  If we look in the mirror and see that we’ve become too focussed on our own law, in providing for our own needs and desires to the detriment of others, the first thing we need to do is to turn to God for help.  He created us, he redeemed us and he has sanctified us.  He will provide everything we need to ‘make a change’ and make the world a better place.

Sure we can make a difference by changing ourselves, but how much more could be achieved with God’s help?  Then if the changes are made be prepared to need to be corrected and admonished, there is no doubt that throughout our text there are warnings and admonishments.  We will easily get carried away with ourselves, our egos will enjoy the successes and they may go to our heads, then the motivation shifts and things get ugly.

When all is said and done this is really about living a life in response to the good and perfect gift that has been given to us from above.  We know that the centre and heart of our faith is salvation and forgiveness of sins for eternal life.  But there is a life in the here and now that is there to be enjoyed, to be fruitful, to put to good use in living a life in faith, of now but not yet.  It is a life of anticipation for the eternal life to come but of sharing the good news along the way with others and making a difference for them.

Take a look in the mirror, see the Holy and loved one there, seek God’s perfect law and consider how that has forever changed you, rejoice and live in that law and love. 

Amen.