Have you ever been surprised by how much juice is contained in a little grape? Even more surprising is the amount of flavor that is generated by slowly savoring its flavor. The longer we hold its juices on the pallet, the more flavor is produced. Conversely, the one who hastily rolls the grape across his tongue and into the throat is unfamiliar with such pleasure. He has eaten the grape but not tasted it. Reflection is concerned with savoring the truth of Scripture for all it is worth.
Opinions differ as to the hallmark of reflection. The Jewish tradition helps us appreciate memorization; others emphasize the practice of repetition and visualization. I would like to suggest that in addition to these, a crucial part of reflection involves relating Scriptural truth to what we observe in society. Borrowing the title of John Stott’s book on preaching, it is living “between two worlds,” with one eye on the ancient text and the other on the values and practices of our day. Reflection considers how the kingdoms of Christ and this world relate.
The human soul humbles itself in prayer, seeing that it is powerless to grasp the sweetness of God in its own strength. Like those who would pass through the Church of the Nativity’s so-called Door of Humility, the small rectangular entrance created in Ottoman times, a requisite posture of submission must be assumed. In doing so, God’s people are positioned to properly fulfill our calling.
After reading Scripture and considering how it speaks to society, we are compelled to pray. Prayer recognizes that we are incapable of advancing God’s kingdom without the animating movement of the Spirit, a movement that is invisible to the naked eye but perceived in prayer.
The love and compassion of God would have us savor the sweetness of grace to our soul’s delight; however, we are never permitted to hoard it. Having read Scripture, related its truth to society, and bathed it in prayer, we are poised to serve as a witness.
Have you ever wondered why the world doesn’t recognize the beauty of Christ? Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” This is the reason: blindness. Divine light shines, but the darkness doesn’t comprehend it.
On account of sin, the human heart gravitates toward idolatry over God’s image. Interestingly, the terms idol and image are cut from the same bolt of lexical fabric; that is, depending on context, the Hebrew word tselem and the Greek eikon can both be rendered either “image” or “idol.” It is probably true that this principle also applies to us. Very often, depending on our situation, we will reflect one way or the other: Christ’s beauty or selfish pride, toward salvation or damnation.
Even though society is unable to recognize God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ, and our role of reflecting it is flawed, there is still hope, for the light of salvation doesn’t emerge from darkness but rather proceeds into it. This is the essence of image reflection. Through the church’s proclamation of the gospel, truth about Christ’s kingdom radiates into society. In this way, God displays his victory over idols and provides renewal to languishing lives. Shattered men and women are transformed and eternally captivated by the beauty of the Savior.
As a Christian, I would like to submit a personal ad to New York magazine:
Strikingly Beautiful: Encountered in the Bible, desperately needed, energized with supernatural power, died for your sins, rose from the dead and eager to embrace with eternal love all who draw near to him—Jesus the Christ.
This is why Christian image is everything.