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What the Bible says about Mirror as Metaphor
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Matthew 7:1-5

Years ago, a minister of my acquaintance gave a sermonette in which he suggested that every time we had car problems, we should try to find a constructive spiritual parallel or analogy. Perhaps bald tires could represent a lack of faith, or low oil on the dipstick, a lack of Holy Spirit. In that spirit, when we see spiritual faults in others, we should convert them into mirrors, examining our own spiritual progress and looking for similar things in ourselves that grieve God's Holy Spirit.

While living in Texas, I drove Interstate 20 five days a week between mile-markers 565 and 614, and I noted all kinds of disgusting driving behaviors, including tailgating, cutting others off, excessive slowness, excessive speed, aggression, and timidity. People shook their fists at me in rage for not going fast enough and also for going too fast!

Yet, when I was late for an appointment, I become similarly annoyed and frustrated about people driving at a snail's pace. When a tailgater followed me too closely, my carnal nature urged me to step on the brakes and give him a good scare. The strange thing about these rude behaviors is that when I do the same despicable things to other people, they do not seem nearly as offensive.

Seeing our behaviors—good or bad—mirrored in someone else is something every parent has experienced. How many parents have ever said, “Just wait until you become a parent. You'll know exactly the way I feel”? We parents, for good or bad, transfer our values and our ways of doing things to our offspring.

David F. Maas
Specks as Mirrors

1 Corinthians 13:11-12

Paul admonishes us—by instructing us "to put away childish things" (verse 11), as well as his reference to a mirror (verse 12)—that love is something we grow in. It must be perfected. What we have now is partial. Therefore, God does not give it to us in one huge portion to be used until we run out of it. In that sense, we must always see ourselves as immature. But a time is coming when love will be perfected, and we will have it in abundance like God. In the meantime, while we are in the flesh, we are to pursue love (I Corinthians 14:1).

This indicates that the biblical love is not something we have innately. True, some forms of this quality we call love come unbidden; that is, they arise by nature. But this is not so with the love of God. It comes through the action of God through His Spirit, something supernatural (Romans 5:5).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Love

James 1:22-25

An old Yiddish proverb reads, “Der Spigel iz der greste farfirer,” meaning “The mirror is the greatest deceiver.” We find this statement especially true when we use mirrors that distort the image. How many of us have:

  • seen mirrors at amusement parks that make us look taller or fatter than we really are?

  • tried to shave or perhaps to insert contact lenses using those stainless steel mirrors at Interstate highway rest areas?

  • tried to judge whether to pull out into traffic using a side-view mirror with the warning etched onto it, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear”?

Jesus' brother, James, advises us that looking into God's law—“the perfect law of liberty”—and becoming a faithful doer of the Word is the only accurate and reliable mirror to evaluate spiritual progress (James 1:22-25). But many of us prefer to judge our spiritual progress by making comparisons with one another, something the apostle Paul points out in II Corinthians 10:12 as being unwise.

Human nature, very standardized and predictable, seems to have a blind spot to its own faults and shortcomings. Like the car mirrors mentioned above, human nature distorts what we see in ourselves. This mirror is the great deceiver when we apply it to ourselves, but so clear when observing the faults of others.

Jesus' admonition in Matthew 7:1-5 reflects this principle:

Judge not, that you be not judged [Jesus refers to condemning or passing sentence, something we are not authorized to do]. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me remove the speck from your eye”; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

In Romans 2:19-24, the apostle Paul gives a parallel warning to Jewish religious leaders for hypocritical condemning:

. . . and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written.

In both instances, the topic of judging is ancillary to the egregious evil of tolerating sin in oneself. In other words, the anger both Jesus and Paul express is far more intense against concealing or tolerating sin in oneself than against judging. As we learn in the first chapter of Amos, the sins of Israel's enemies were hideous and disgusting, but the concealed hypocritical sins within Israel—from the people who allegedly made a unique covenant with God—produced a more noxious stench in God's nostrils.

Other people's sins do and should make us angry. But the things that intensely annoy or anger us about other people's behaviors should serve as warning indicators of the very things that God finds offensive in us.

David F. Maas
Specks as Mirrors

2 Peter 1:19-21

This warning is very instructive. First, Peter assures us that biblical prophecy is "more sure" than even eyewitness testimony (verses 16-18)! When God speaks, whatever He foretells WILL happen! God's Word will not return to Him empty; it will accomplish what God sends it to do (Isaiah 55:11).

The apostle also says we would "do well to heed" it. Prophecy is vital to our growth! It strengthens our faith in God, teaches us how He works, and gives us a guide to His purpose for humanity. Until Christ returns, we need to study the prophecies to understand where we are and what God is doing.

Then Peter sounds his warning note: Do not presume to believe that your particular understanding of prophecy is THE correct one! He says this is the "first" rule of studying prophecy; it is something we must arm ourselves with at the outset. We must be humble enough to realize that our interpretation of prophecy is probably WRONG!

God's thoughts are far higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9); He does not think as humans do. Though we are surely growing in forming His mind in us (I Corinthians 2:16; Ephesians 4:13, 15; Philippians 2:5; II Peter 3:18), we still have a very long way to go! Paul puts it another way: "For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then [in the resurrection] face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known" (I Corinthians 13:12). Or, as he quotes Isaiah in I Corinthians 2:9, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him."

We, in this fleshly form, with our limited minds and perspectives, just do not know it all yet!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
No Private Interpretation


 




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