“Mirror, Mirror on the Wall”
All of us have been in situations where we have asked of ourselves “what do I do?” Whether it be a decision in a position of urgency or one of those labouring “tossing and turning in bed” decisions. A person I once knew couldn’t make up his mind and asked my opinion on which electronic brand to buy, both equal in price. A week or so later, on meeting him I asked how he went? He said he still couldn’t decide but then he saw a different bargain advertised and spent the money on that, being eight cartons of discounted Crown Lager beer. That’s one way to do it I suppose.
Last week we talked of the message of John the Baptist and our need for repentance. Of turning away from things that get in the way of God, and turning back to God. In today’s Gospel John continues in his message even to the point of calling his listeners “a brood of vipers”. In the day, harsh words which bring forth a very good question, “What shall we do then?” And after all of John’s “fire and brimstone” preaching his answer comes somewhat as a surprise as he doesn’t ask of any things that would stop them in their tracks, but seemingly simple things. “If you have two coats, give one of them to someone who has none. If you are a tax collector, collect no more than what you are meant to. If you are a soldier, don’t use your authority to oppress or threaten people, just do your job and be happy with your normal wages”.
Simple things, yet simple things that for John the Baptist to be able to be heard, he first had to jar his listeners free from all the build-up and corrosion that they had suffered and encountered through the years that had gradually led them off track to the point where to be told to just do the simple things is like a revelation.
A lady was once telling me that she was leading training courses overseas with some leaders of business. The type of training had some big words but she said a simple way to explain was:
“Say you’re walking over a bridge and all the cars are banked up in a traffic jam and a twenty dollar note falls out of one of the car windows and you see that the driver cannot open the door wide enough to get out. So what do you do? Go over and pick it up and give it back to the driver, keep it for yourself or just keep walking?”
Admittingly this was to people living in the culture of a huge city with its hectic pace and concerns of safety. It’s climate of lifestyle that can create remoteness between people. The thing is many people realise things could be different but because it’s so commonplace, gradually fall into line and soon it’s their “normal” as well, and this is not just in big cities.
A young man I know moved to a small country town and in one of the shops he encountered quite a stern and even “borderline” rude owner to him, and apparently to everyone. But instead of returning fire with fire, he went the other way and was continually friendly to the point that gradually a smile came, then warm welcomes. Not just to him but in her day to day interactions. By not “burning” his own integrity and continuing to be himself, things somehow changed.
And there’s the question, “what price our integrity?” Is it worth giving it away like I saw at a hot dog stand when two people nearly came to blows over who was first in line? Road rage at the school drop off, people hurling abuse because they had to slightly use the brake pedal to give way to another, the parent with a young teenager in tow unloads the shopping trolley and just lets it go and it rolls into the next car and people abusing the sixteen year old attendant at the supermarket seem to be rampant. All of a sudden John the Baptist simple words of leading an honest, kind and giving lifestyle seem revolutionary.
Just where has all this come from. Could it be that the technology that was promised to give us more time in our lives has actually delivered the opposite to where it’s such a rush these days that we cannot afford to accept the extra minutes associated with a little understanding toward others? Certainly it seems we are busier than ever but is that really an excuse for a selfish, uncaring and rude lifestyle as this is exactly what John was preaching back in his day and as to my knowledge he didn’t even have Facebook, never mind twitter.
Remember John the Baptist was talking of these simple things to the God fearing Jews. But God fearing Jews who at least had the excuse that they were only beginning to hear the ways of Christ.
But what’s the excuse today when we hear of splits in churches between Pastor and congregation and Christian against Christian? This is not a pointed question as I feel blessed to be among people here who realise my many short comings, yet realise that it’s not about individuals, it’s about Christ.
To label Christians as hypocrites because of our actions is rubbish because we do not profess to be any different from others. Sometimes we make the same mistakes and do the wrong things, just like sometimes we manage to do some good. Being normal is not being a hypocrite, but being a Christian and not realising our need for Christ as our guide in this life is, because he puts things into perspective.
But perspective that like when at the amusement places and you look into those funny mirrors that change your body shape can get out of whack if not based on the truth. I always like looking into the mirror that makes me look taller and thinner, only to be reminded of my true self in the non-distorted mirror.
In Jesus Christ our Saviour we see ourselves as we are. Not hypocrites but everyday normal people. Normal people that display all the normal attributes of our society.
Kindness, not returning fire with fire, letting some-one else push in the queue without abusing them and reminding the shop attendant of their mistake without belittling them is not a lot to ask when we know the truth. That when we were lost Christ found us. When we didn’t want him he didn’t turn away. When we were unkind to him: he gave us himself. When we abused him: he stretched out his arms on the cross to be pierced and when we finally heard his call: the heavens erupted in joyous song that against the odds, another broken sinner in a broken world has looked into the mirror and seen themselves covered in the forgiveness of our Saviour. And although our acts of goodwill toward others may seem insignificant, tainted and distorted-we give in thanks to the Lord and trust that still against the odds in our world, that in his hands the heavens will again erupt in joyous song.