It was among the most grotesque sights I have ever seen. To this day, my memory is scarred by it.
The day itself was utterly lovely. A slight breeze blew in off the ocean, the seagulls were squawking contentedly, and my toes were in their favorite place: the white sand of the coast. And yet despite all of that, my eyes were fixed in horror at the repulsive vision parading down the shoreline in all of his pasty white glory, leering at the women on the beach as he sauntered by.
To say that the man was huge would be an understatement. Mind you, that in itself is not the problem. I am not judging his size; he may not have been able to help that. But what he certainly could have helped, in addition to his lecherous gazes, was his choice of attire, namely a woefully insufficient Speedo.
It honestly took me a moment to realize that he even had that much on. His aggressively shaking posterior was actively swallowing it more and more with every step he took and seemed to be nom-noming as it ingested it, turning it into a nearly invisible man-thong. His belly had completely covered it in the front. At first glance, he literally appeared completely naked. Mothers were actually shielding their children's eyes as he passed. Any man walking around that naked in front of women and little girls today and staring like he did would most assuredly be charged with sexual harassment.
And then someone murmured what everyone was thinking: "Did he not look in the mirror?"
That question still resonates with me to this day. In fact, I remember my own "did he not look in the mirror moment" from my teenage years: '80s style shorts, half shirt, tennis shoes and those hideous knee-length socks with three red stripes on each one
The girl I went to meet that night took one look at me and refused to be seen with me.
The apostle James, half brother of Jesus and author of the New Testament book that bears his name, had some thoughts on mirrors as well, specifically the mirror of God's word.
In James 1:22-25 he said, "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass (a mirror): For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed."
James was dealing with people who look into the Bible, the mirror of God's word, see themselves in all of their flaws, and then walk away not making the necessary changes. The Bible, for the child of God, is designed to show us our flaws and help us make the necessary corrections.
You see, being saved will get a person to heaven, but for making it through this life we also need something called sanctification. We need to be set apart from sin, to God.
Verse 25 reminds us that it is the person who looks into the Bible, the "perfect law of liberty," and continues in it, who will end up being blessed. Simply reading it is not enough: We must continue in it. We must abide by what it says. We must make it our authoritative guide for life.
If we do, what kind of life will it produce? Verse 27 answers that question. It says, "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."
This verse describes the two aspects of pure religion, and they are not multiple choice. Pure religion — sanctification — consists both of service to others and purity from sin. In other words, a person who visits nursing homes and orphanages and feeds the homeless, and also gets drunk and curses and sleeps with someone to whom they are not married does not have pure religion. On the flip side, a person who never curses, never even drinks, is 100 percent faithful to his spouse and yet never serves those in need also does not have pure religion.
Pure religion consists both of holy living and service. Religion is not salvation; but if you are saved, you should be looking into the mirror of God's word and becoming more and more religious, more and more service-oriented, more and more set apart from sin, to God.
Take a look in the mirror: What do you see?
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, N.C., a widely traveled evangelist and author of several books available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Email him at email@example.com.