This series is related to my Kingdom Culture series: both seek to illumine and extend the voice of Christ beyond the walls of our churches by equipping Christians to represent Jesus, His Gospel, and His Kingdom in authentic and faithful ways. I hope you enjoy The Mirror.
As I close out this series, I know there are some thinking: “Wait! You have established a premise based on two people: Pharisee and Sinner. But there is a third person: Disciple.”
Yes, that’s true. But again, from my life experience, I have seen in myself and others that it IS the Disciple who oscillates between Pharisee and Sinner. The pendulum of every Disciple’s heart tends to swing back and forth between these two extremes and yet it is true that we can – IF we abide in Christ – come back into the balance required of Disciple.
That is the opportunity; that is the call Christ has on our lives; and that, my friends, is why Pharisee and Sinner need one another. They both reflect some portion of the Gospel – they reflect polar opposite fragments of the Gospel. If we can humble ourselves, we can learn from one another.
So the real question is this: who is going to make the first move? Pharisee? Or Sinner?
That is a good question. May I suggest to you that if we accept that we ALL do these ‘same’ things; if we all oscillate back and forth between these roles; if there is no difference between us; then one way to make the first move and humble ourselves is simply to realize that when we see our enemy – that person ‘on the other side’ – we are really looking into The Mirror.
In our neighbors and even in our enemies: if we are really honest with ourselves, we see ourselves. We often see the mirror image opposite of ourselves. As stated earlier in this series, we are exactly identical but in exactly opposite ways. We are identical in the fact that we twist the Gospel out of balance: we are exact opposites in that we twist the Gospel in polar opposite directions. One of us twists it toward a mercy-bias; the other of us twists it toward a judgment-bias. Both of us are partly right – but both of us are also partly wrong.
We cannot always be right. Others cannot always be wrong. We are not as ‘good’ as we think. Others are not as ‘bad’ as we often conclude. We all have some insight, some wisdom, some truth, or some strength that we can serve those ‘on the other side’ with. As for those ‘on the other side’ – well, they too have some insight, wisdom, truth or strength that they can serve us with.
There is another myth that we have to recognize: some will think I am suggesting that we strip our spiritual gears to do what we were not made to do. Instead, what I am suggesting is that we are both flesh and spirit. What our flesh is not able to accomplish, our spirit – God’s Spirit in us – is perfectly capable of accomplishing.
The myth is this: if I get too relationally, emotionally, and spiritually close to those ‘on the other side’, they might think I am changing my theology. Or worse, I might actually be tempted to do just that: to embrace a compassion that collapses into Biblical compromise.
This is a valid concern: if we are not grounded in who Jesus is – if we fail to abide in Christ – we could collapse into compromise. But the danger is NOT in how much love or compassion we show others; the real danger is failing to abide in Christ.
Friends, I don’t have to change my theology to love and serve others boldly. In fact, my theology – just as it is – demands that I do nothing less! The same theology that points me to a certain moral position is the same theology that calls me to love and serve others boldly. This is no contradiction; this is the balanced and Biblical Gospel-empowered life of Disciple.
It is wise to remember the single limitation we are urged to abide by: love and serve others so long as you yourself are not tempted into their sin. Beyond this, we are called to radically go to those ‘on the other side’ and love them, serve them, care for them, and dwell with them as Christ works in and through us to touch their lives – for the sake of His Kingdom. Along the way, we should not be shocked to see God working through “their” lives to touch us – yes, for the sake of His Kingdom.
As I look in The Mirror and see others not as my enemies but as my neighbors, I see myself. I see my own biases when I see theirs. I see my own frailties when I see theirs. I see my own sin when I see theirs. I see my own hypocrisy when I see theirs. I see my own judgmentalism when I see theirs. We ALL do these SAME things…
In denying my flesh-tendency to elevate myself and look down upon those ‘on the other side,’ I discipline my mind into submission to God’s Spirit within me. Slowly, God beats the sword that I use to cut others with into a plowshare that now serves others. In this place, I abide in Christ and represent the Gospel rightly.
As a peacemaker seeing others through the lens of a gentle spirit under the control of the fruit of God’s Spirit, I make room for others to reflect the mirror image opposite of the Jesus I project. And the great news is that if the Jesus I project is really Jesus, then the mirror image opposite has the ‘potential’ to become just a mirror image.
What does this mean? It means that if I allow the Pharisee in me to soften and embrace more mercy, I eliminate the rebellious energy that others use to fuel an equally (and oppositely) imbalanced view of Jesus. I make room for Sinner to come closer to a true expression of Jesus by humbly embracing truth.
Sinner and Pharisee can serve one another. They can help one another become Disciple. IF they are both willing…
I am not all idealist; I am realistic enough to understand that self-will is involved. Not everyone will choose to come toward Jesus or embrace a more balanced – and Biblical – Gospel. But you know what? I am not called to twist the Gospel just because others imbalance it; my calling is simply to do my part; to represent Jesus, His Gospel and His Kingdom in authentic and faithful ways that please Christ.
And that, my friend, is what I see when I look into The Mirror. What do you see?
Thanks for reading my series,