Summary: When man looks into a mirror, the Word (ie, the Law) is the perfection of his image. Through Christ, in aligning his form to the righteous life of God's commands, a man participates in paradise.
“Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (Jas. 1:22). James wrote to believers not to pagans: “To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” (Jas. 1:1). We might explain his recipients as those of the Faith who live in a godless world. He is not writing because we—the faithful—fail listen to the word. We hear it in church each Sunday; hopefully we’re reading the Bible (even one paragraph) daily, listening to Christian radio in the car or at work. Our hearts have known the peace of Christ; even in the midst of pain we recall the joy to come.
But, as if we were come to a pool, all of that is like sitting on the edge dabbling toes in the water, perhaps wading in to our ankles. There’s so much more to the pool than that. We are called to not only splash timidly in the word from the edge, but to get in and swim. Listening to the word gets your clothes damp; doing the word is casting them off and leaving nothing between you and it. And, if we have utter faith in He who is the Word, we can become drowned beneath its waters, and find out that we are truly made to be fish, and there is more than just this pool, there’s a whole ocean in God where hearing His word and doing what it says goes on for endless ages. That kind of total submission to listening and doing of the word is holding onto the commandments of God that Jesus wanted from the Pharisees.
“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 likes. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does” (Jas. 1:23–25).
Magnificent the truth contained
Within these words of life!
Sublime the thought of our own face
Which truth itself supplies.
On one hand we have man looking at his natural face, and on the other hand we have man looking into the perfect law that gives freedom. One goes away while the other continues to look intently. One immediately forgets what he looks like, and the other doesn’t forget but does what he has heard.
What does a man see looking into a mirror? He sees his natural face, his created visage, the appearance of his person. A mirror shows the form of the one looking into it. What is my form? What is appearance? A man. When we look into a mirror, James tells us that we should see more than just the man; we should see the perfect law that gives freedom. Do you see that? A man looks into a mirror to see his created face, but he looks into the mirror of the Law to see his perfected appearance, his ideal form.
The word is what a man sees in a mirror if he is living as the Father’s firstfruits. What’s the purpose of the word? Why has God given us this?
When we look into the mirror, we should see the Law. Yes, the Law. Does that smack of legalism? Absolutely not. Law and Word are not two disconnected things. In Christ Jesus, the Law and the Word are one; from the beginning, they always were one in Him. If the Law appears in me, I am at home and most fully myself. Fr. John Worgul, says, “The law isn’t rules and regulations. The law is paradise.” God made us for abundant life. In lawlessness there’s no life, only flight, hiding, fear, and judgment; in law, there’s life, freedom, belonging, and acceptance. “This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world” (1 Jn. 5:2–4).
Why do we look into a mirror? To see whether our shirt is tucked in, our tie is straight, the collar isn’t turned up, the shirt placket lines us with the trouser’s fly, the pant cuffs aren’t bunched up, there isn’t a cowlick, no dangling boogers. We look into the mirror to confirm that we appear as we ought. And if we find something that isn’t right, we don’t walk away and forget to correct it (or decide not to bother), rather we stand there before the mirror and fix the crooked tie until it is straight.