As we get closer to finishing the discussion of Mark Labberton’s The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor, Pastor Labberton begins to call us to imagine what God sees when He looks at us.
Maybe this is the beginning of transformation: “taking stock”.
Maybe for us to adopt God’s view, it can be compared to that sideways look in the three way mirror in the clothing store when we see an angle that is not the straight-on look we are used to seeing. It can be a bit of a shock but it is the truth nevertheless. We are seeing parts that we are not used to seeing and we may not like what we are seeing, but those parts are there.
Labberton has written throughout his book about our distorted view of ourselves, that view that excuses our inaction to help our neighbors, that view that looks right into the mirror and “good Christian” looks back at us when maybe that is not quite the image we should be seeing. The problem is that without the inspiration from Jesus and God, “Left to our own devices, human beings feebly and anemically reflect the heart of God” [Labberton, 191].
Yes, we have reached the point in the book when we have to be honest. Maybe you are feeling like you don’t do enough to help your neighbors. What do you need to do to get that passion for helping others? What do you have to do to have just a small part of the heart of God? What do we need to do to “do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God [Micah 6:8]? You see, God’s ways are not our ways; God’s heart is not our heart. Sadly, our heart is horribly distracted by the world; we most often move toward those who have stature and away from those who do not. What can we do to feel the passion and fight the distraction?
Labberton states that first and foremost, we must know that we have a God who deserves to be worshipped and we need to worship Him. Worship of God is a “central catalyst” in making our heart mirror God’s. Labberton says that “placing ourselves in contexts where we deliberately seek God’s transforming, renewing grace is a vital spiritual exercise. [Worship] means the Holy Spirit can come into our hearts and minds, replacing the mirror by which we see ourselves, one another and God” . The new mirror may be more accurate.
The second place to find passion for helping our neighbors is regular reading of God’s Word. God’s Word can do so much for us. It can inspire us, it can inform us, it can regulate our behavior and yes, it can transform us. Labberton writes about the many stories of Jesus’ effect on those around Him, the fact that His Disciples had hearts that were not like His. They were “scandalized, argumentative, embarrassed, clueless, offended, adamant, dismissive, and distracted” . They were just like we are. But what happened to these men over time? Their hearts moved toward the hearts of the powerless, toward giving grace to those who suffered. The woman with the flow of blood got attention, when they really wanted to run on their way. The tax collector’s invitation was accepted even though he was a socially undesirable man. Jesus spoke truth to the scribes and Pharisees because He was redefining what really matters to God in this world, not the countless man-made rules. But Jesus was stating practical commandments that made sense in the world of His day, commandments that reflected the grace of God.
Worship and study of God’s Word may inspire people who are already Christian but what can we do to get people who are not Christian see our ways and understand? What can we do to help others to transform from our transformation?
It is our actions. The people of God, filled with the Spirit, seeing and naming the world in God’s compassionate ways can take action. It is our service that will convince others that we are “real”. Becoming people who help those less fortunate is the biggest action we can achieve. This will convince them that our calling is real.
God sees us and says we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Imago Dei is at the core of everyone’s life. Imago Dei means that God shines in everyone’s life. It can be the image that we glimpse in the three-way mirror, what Labberton calls the “marker that makes us unmistakably God’s and unmistakably ourselves” .