Mirror, Mirror by Virgil Stripes
James 1:22-27 (ESV)
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
This admonition was aimed at the believers who were also part of the “Diaspora” the dispersed 12 tribes of Israel. It seems they had slipped into a sort of heady faith. Believe, but don’t let it impact how you behave. James lets them know that is foolishness. We must put our faith into practice. His allegory of looking into the mirror and forgetting what I look like as soon as I turn away is puzzling, but at the same time, I cannot even begin to recall how many times I would attend church, hear a great sermon, and 15 minutes later not even remember any of it. So maybe it is a good allegory. Maybe we need to think about how we can put our religion to work. How many people can I help? How can I help them?
I think his point of caring for the orphans and widows is a good one. I think this applies to us today if we think of the most vulnerable in our society. The question is, what is the difference between helping and enabling? Some of the homeless are so because they choose to be. In my National Guard unit, we had a cook that would disappear after drill weekend with his check from the previous drill, and reappear six or so hours before the next one to shower, change into his uniform, and collect his check. He lived on the street, under bridges, or wherever, he would never be specific when asked. He did not want any help, or a ride anywhere. He wanted to be left alone. So I don’t know where to draw the line. Maybe it is time to look into that mirror again?