Image-conscious, part 1

Photo by Stuart Miles. Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.
Photo by Stuart Miles.
Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Lord’s Spirit is, there is freedom. All of us are looking with unveiled faces at the glory of the Lord as if we were looking in a mirror. We are being transformed into that same image from one degree of glory to the next degree of glory. This comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
— 2 Cor 3:17-18, CEB

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

Over the years at various events, I’ve had numerous opportunities to meet up again with people I haven’t seen in a long time. Often, they’ll say something like, “Wow, you still look the same!” But these days, my perception is that they don’t say that quite as often anymore. And rightly so: I don’t look the same to myself. Not that I’ve gone bald or anything. I just look…tired.

But too often, we look for what our image-conscious world has taught us to look for, and frankly, we’re seldom pleased.

Maybe we should be looking for something else.

As we’ve seen across several posts, Paul uses the story of the unveiled face of Moses to deepen the Corinthians’ understanding of the gospel (and ours). When we turn to God in repentance, the veil that darkens our hearts is taken away (2 Cor 3:15-16). We are freed from the old “ministry of death” by the indwelling presence of the Spirit of the living God (vss. 3, 17). The implication is that unlike the Israelites under the old covenant, we can behold God’s reflected glory and live.

But that’s not all. Far from it.

When Moses met with God, he removed the veil covering his face, a mark of intimacy that was sadly lacking in God’s relationship with a rebellious people. But Paul pushes the metaphor further: we not only behold God’s reflected glory, we reflect it ourselves, by being made more and more into his likeness.

The idea of being made in the image and likeness of God is central to how the Bible understands what it means to be truly human (cf. Gen 1:26-27). The vocation of God’s people has always been to reflect his nature; the old covenant merely served to demonstrate how ill-equipped we are to fulfill that calling on our own.

Thus, the need for a new covenant: now, through God’s Spirit, we are being transformed bit by bit — the word is metamorphosis — in ways that better reflect the image of God’s glory.

And yet…that might not be what you see in the mirror. Nor, as I suggested in earlier posts, might it be what we see when we look at the Corinthian church, or for that matter, any other church. Maybe we need a veil to be removed?

More on that in the next post.