Putting on a Good Face
What does it look like to be image bearers?
In last week's blog, we talked about how we are far too often broken image bearers, reflecting a distorted version of Christ. But how did we get there? And what does it look like to fix it?
This is nothing new. In fact, to illustrate, I'm going to point at the Pharisees in the New Testament so as not to point the finger directly at anyone. But don't worry, it's still indirectly pointing at us! The Pharisees are probably best known for holding up and living out the details of God's law, yet still somehow missing Jesus as the fulfillment of that law. We like to point our fingers at the Pharisees as these super terrible, legalistic people. We pride ourselves in not being like that at all.
Well, what if we are?
You see, the Pharisees I believe were suffering from the same misplaced trust and the same misplaced logic that I think drives much of the church today. They thought that religious activity was the same as loving God.
The reasoning went something like this. I go to temple (or church), I offer sacrifices on occasion, I tithe, I'm checking all the boxes. I'm doing all the things a good believer would do. I'm going through all the motions. I'm living life the right way. I'm checking all the boxes. I'm good right? And yet in Matthew 23, we find Jesus referring to the Pharisees as, of all things, hypocrites.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. (Matthew 23:25-26, 28)
Hypocrite originally came from play acting and referred to actual actors who would hold up one mask and play one character, and then a moment later, hold up another mask to play another character, playing multiple characters at once. And here, Jesus is using that term to illustrate just what it is the Pharisees are missing. They are putting on a good face, but according to Jesus, everything they are doing is only face deep.
When you are an image bearer of God, you reflect Him both inside and out. When the spirit of God comes upon you as a believer, God begins to change you from the inside out, so that the change seen on the surface is a reflection of the person you are actually becoming. The thing about wearing masks is, they don't change anything about the person wearing them. Faith is not a mask we put on to "appear" a certain way. Integrity doesn't start from the outside; it comes from the inside out.
To be honest, it's easy to walk this line. It's easy to come to church, put on the face and play the part, while inside my life is filthy. It's easy to wear the mask then to actually deal with cleaning up my heart. This is what Jesus is calling out in the Pharisees. They give out laws to others, but don't live my them. They win converts to them, but not to God. They reinterpret God's law to suit their purposes. They emphasize details but miss the big truth. They keep their outward appearance clean while living corruptly inwardly.
What does that look like today? How about serving food at The Banquet, but never looking those you serve in the eye with compassion? Or claiming to support justice for all while never giving up your position of privilege? How about being intolerant of those with varying beliefs? Or protesting abortion clinics, yet never taking the opportunity to adopt or foster, or to reach out to unwed mothers who need support?
Here's the point: Being an image bearer means more than reflecting the face of God. We are to reflect the very heart of God. To be a true image bearer of God, you must first bear His Spirit in your life. How about you? How well are you bearing God's image not only outwardly, but inwardly as well?