Today people everywhere take mirrors for granted, but not every mirror gives an accurate reflection. Even apart from the type of distorting mirror that is used in carnivals, there is actually quite a range of reflection accuracy in normal commercial mirrors – as you can often see by comparing several together.
Nevertheless, despite imperfections they may have, we all need mirrors occasionally to check on ourselves as we go through life. Sometimes we need a spiritual mirror too, and there the level of reflection accuracy becomes much more important, of course. But when it comes to taking a look at our own characters and spiritual condition, it’s amazing how often many people will settle for mirrors which can’t really be trusted to give an accurate reflection. We all fall prey to this to some extent. When we ourselves attempt to judge how we are doing spiritually, we run the risk of getting an inaccurate reflection as Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us, because “The heart is deceitful above all things…” and it’s that human “heart” or mind that twists things so constantly that we simply can’t trust its judgment. Even if we turn to friends and fellow believers to get input on issues regarding our character and behavior, the “reflection” we get from them may be distorted by friendship, too.
The truth is there is only one spiritual mirror we can trust and that is the one God provides us in His word. It’s a particularly effective “mirror” because it works two ways. First, the word of God doesn’t pull any punches. We can always trust it to “tell it like it is” because its reflection goes much deeper than our surface selves: “For the word of God is... sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates … the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). That’s a non-distorting reflection we can trust one hundred percent. It might be discouraging at times to see a true reflection of our inner nature, but there is another, more positive way the word of God acts as a mirror for us which does change the reflection to our advantage. The more we look into the mirror of the word, the more we clearly see the nature of Christ himself – an image to which we are striving to conform as Paul tells us: “We … beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image ...” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
So God provides a mirror that we can trust when it comes to seeing things we need to change and fix – and also provides us with a mirror that gives us a clear image to aim for as we change. It’s really not that complicated: a reflection of what we need to avoid and one of what we need to be. The only caution is that we mustn’t forget to regularly check the mirror we are given and to act on its reflection, as the apostle James wrote: “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do” (James 1:22-25). That’s a mirror we can trust – all we have to do is use it regularly.