Monday, February 20, 2012

Windows and Mirrors

    I was sitting around the other day, musing about several different peoples (isn't "musing" a great word?  I think it should be said at least once a week.  If you haven't said it this week...go ahead.  There.  Don't you feel good?).  I was thinking about some peoples that had something in common, but they couldn't see it.

    There's a Hassidic parable called, interesting enough, "The Parable of the Mirror". My favorite version is this: A rabbi comes to the house of a rich man. Now, the man is very happy with his possessions and enjoys putting them on display for his guests. The rabbi looks around the room, and then beckons the man to the window. Across the street is a poor man sitting on the ground. And you can almost hear what the rich man is thinking. "Oh, look at that scoundrel. Look at that sinner! He mars my view with his filth and uncleanliness!" But then the rabbi guides the man over to a very ornate mirror. "What do you see?" he asks. "I see myself", replies the rich man. "Ahh, you will note that the window is glass, and the mirror is glass. You see yourself when you look out the window." It could be that the rich man couldn't see his own resemblance in the poor man because of his many treasures.

    The writer of the parable could very well have looked back at an encounter Jesus had with some Pharisees two thousand years prior as his example. A tax collector named Matthew (and we all know how we feel about the tax collectors!) left his work to follow Jesus. That night, he held a big party for Jesus and invited all his friends. Tax collectors and "sinners" were gathered under the same roof to meet Jesus. And the Pharisees stood by looking in through the window. You could hear their thoughts. "Oh, look at those scoundrels. Look at those sinners. They mar the view with their filth and uncleanliness!" And Jesus rplied, "Those who are well have no need for a physician, but those who are sick." The Pharisees didn't understand that they were looking into a mirror. They couldn't see that though they were Jewish religious leaders, there was no difference between them and the tax collectors (and we all know how we feel about the tax collectors!) when it came to sin. Jesus, the Great Physiscian, came for them all.

    I can't help but wonder why the Pharisees thought those thoughts. It seems like there are numerous examples and stories in their own history to be able to guard against that kind of thing. But we oftentimes make that same mistake. And the mistake, I think, is this: we look across from ourselves and compare our sins and "uncleanliness" with others. Instead, we should be looking up. There's a great example of this in the history of the Jews.

    There was a man named Isaiah who had his eyes opened one day. Big time. He found himself in front of God. There was God...holy, all powerful, majestic on an awesome throne. God's robe filled the temple.

    And there were no windows present. No mirrors. The difference between Isaiah and God couldn't be more pronounced. A sinner and unclean man in the presence of the good, holy and awesome judge of all humankind. And what was Isaiah's response? He could have pointed to his neighbor and said, "Hey, Lord. Take a good look at the mess I live next to." But instead, Isaiah looked at himself and said, "Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips. I am undone." He knew who he was in comparison to the one in front of him. There was no hiding what was inside his heart when looking upon God.

    But God didn't leave Isaiah in that state. A strange, heavenly creature picked up a burning coal from God's alter and touched Isaiah's lips. "Your iniquity is taken away and your sin is purged.

    It might be me, but I think we can learn something about Isaiah's encounter with God. God stands before us now. Yes, He's invisible...but He's still there. Holy, powerful, majestic. We could look around at others and think, "What scoundrels! What sinners!" But it's not just your neighbor who's in front of God. It's you. What would you say? "Woe is me, for I'm a drug addict!" or "Woe is me, for I cheat on my husband." "I'm a liar." "I hate these people who surround me day in and day out." In the presence of a holy God, there's not much hiding the fact that we've screwed up. Whatever it is, regardless of how much of it we have, it separates us from God.

    And there's nothing we can do to get rid of that sin. No sacrifice we can make. No good deeds. Nothing we do can wipe us clean.

    But God can.

    God provided what we ourselves could not. Just as He cleansed Isaiah from his lying lips, God has provided us with a way to cleanse us. And that way is Jesus.

    We look back in history and we consider the death of Jesus as a reflection of the world's brutality. But it was more than that. On the cross, Jesus died for every sin you've ever committed and every sin you will commit. That's how great God's love is. It's the same message that pops up at all the ballgames.   John 3:16   "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life." God wants you to know His forgiveness, and experience the life that lasts forever. The great thing is that it starts now. It's not a matter of wishful thinking, because Jesus can be your life right now. Your sins can be washed all away, and God would put His Spirit in your heart. How close is that!

    And you're not alone. God has given you plenty of people in the church to walk that path of life with you. People who had lying lips, who are tempted by pornography, who work through their anger with God's strength. God is that big! His love is deeper than the ocean, higher than the mountains, purer than any silver, and more faithful than a mother to her own child. It all starts with forgiveness. If you want that love, and to know God personally, please pray this prayer:

"Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be."

    My life has changed because of God's love. And Jesus will walk with you and never leave you. Consider how awesome that love is, and take His hand today.