The differences between the faith and teachings of Jesus and the institutional church his followers founded are vast and varied. I’ve spent a lot of my life articulating those differences and editing others’ articulations.

So much of the Christian church has been caught up in pomp and circumstance, power and control, gold and glory. Long forgotten, for so many Christians, have been the poor and powerless among whom Jesus lived and to whom he preached.

I find it illuminative that in so much of our art, we have left Jesus on the cross. Yes, the crucified, suffering Christ is a hopeful image for those who suffer and find comfort in Christ experiencing suffering “with” them. But for many of us, I fear, it is much more convenient to leave him nailed safely up there to be worshiped (and controlled), instead of active down among us, to be followed and emulated.

Another image came to mind in this regard during my recent retreat day. We are imperfect mirrors, and we inevitably, inescapably distort the image of God that we reflect. We do this because our life experiences and inner torments warp us so that we can no longer accurately reflect Christ’s glory.

The good news is that growth and healing are possible. Through care-filled attention to prayer, study, and faithful action, we are slowly heated, re-tempered (even in—and sometimes through—our own sufferings), and become smoother mirrors that more accurately reflect the Jesus we (hopefully) seek to emulate.

I’ve written before about this slow transformation into the likeness of Christ. With the Holy Spirit’s patient and persistent guidance, we are called to become Christ-like in our actions. We can also come to recognize Christ in those around us. Richard Rohr puts it this way:

“A mature Christian sees Christ in everything and everyone else. That is a definition that will never fail you, always demand more of you, and give you no reasons to fight, exclude, or reject anyone.”[1]

How faithfully do you mirror Jesus? What has warped your mirror, tempered it, transformed it?

[1] Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For and Believe (New York: Convergent, 2018), 33.

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