If we didn't have mirrors, we'd never know what we need to do to look presentable. I get up in the morning, stagger into the bathroom, turn on the light, and look into the mirror. On the best of days, it's not a pretty sight. If you've seen me after I've cleaned up, you can imagine the fright I give myself first thing every morning. James says that Scripture is like a mirror that shows us what we look like where no glass can reflect - in our hearts. No matter whether we're brand-new Christians or old hacks, that divine mirror will do its work if we but pay attention.
This morning I was reading from Luke 7, where Jesus has been invited to a dinner party at the home of Simon the Pharisee, one of the highly respected religious class of the day. As they sat down to dinner, someone crashes the party, and that someone happened to be rather well-known around town for her somewhat unsavory reputation. She was "a sinner," a woman of ill-repute who somehow managed to get by the butler. She threw herself at Jesus in a rather scandalous manner. Weeping at his feet, she undid her hair, something no self-respecting woman would ever do in mixed company, and with it, rubbed some very expensive perfume on him. This was not the sedate, measured act we learned in our Sunday School lessons. It was highly erotic, perhaps the only way she knew how to relate to a man. Jesus remained fixed where he was, quietly receiving this attention.
Jesus' host said not a word, but clearly was not impressed. Jesus read the look on his face and proceeded to tell a story that ended up revealing his host's critical and judgmental attitude. Well, not only his host. Me, too.
To me, the amazing part of this story is the mere fact that she came. She just knew Jesus wouldn't reject her. By contrast, how many "sinful" people in my life would think of coming to me for acceptance? No matter how desperate the circumstances, I cannot imagine anyone with a similar reputation feeling safe enough to do so. Church people sadly are not often known for their compassion. I'm afraid I am more like the Pharisee, judging perhaps not openly, but like Simon, in my heart. This woman didn't come to Simon, but to Jesus. Am I ready to receive with compassion those whose life decisions have been disastrous? Am I ready to receive them with compassion, recognizing their hopeful faith and offering forgiveness? I fear I am more Pharisee than Christian, more ready to judge and criticize than to receive and forgive. May God remove from me this heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh that beats love and compassion for those rejected by the world and the Church (Ezekiel 36:26).
I looked in the Mirror this morning, and didn't like what I saw. Thank God for the Mirror. Now for the hard work of making myself presentable, not to the world, but to God.