How do you see yourself?
We all have images of ourselves inside our heads. Sometime these images are accurate, sometimes less so. Sometimes other people can see things about us that we cannot. In this activity, we can reflect on how we see ourselves, and what God’s opinion is.
You will need:
- A small mirror
- Dry-wipe pens in many colours
- Kitchen towel for erasing
Look at yourself in the mirror and draw an oval around your face. Have some fun giving yourself funny hair, hats or moustaches. Perhaps you’d look good with an eye patch.
Now have a think about the inside. If the ‘you’ on the inside appeared on your face, what would it look like? Would there be scars of hurt? Would it look frightened or angry or lost? What hats might it wear? Would it be peering through binoculars, trying to see where to go? Would it be beautiful or ugly or just ordinary? You draw several things if you like.
It is useful to think about how we see ourselves, but it is also useful to remember that this is the view of the house from inside, and we cannot always see too well from here. Add God’s view to your picture.
God says you are holy. Add a halo. You may not think you deserve it, but that is why it is called grace.
How are you feeling about yourself today? Are you brightly forging ahead with your New Year’s resolutions and starting to see the ‘new you’ emerging from the cheese-induced stupor of festive over-indulgence? Or are those resolutions already fading with the short January days and you’ve slumped back into the deadly same-old, same-old? Most of us vary between these two extremes from time to time. How are you feeling about yourself today?
God’s view of us does not change, and it is quite breath-taking. We can see it in today’s passage.
Perhaps, like me, you have read greetings like this many times. Most of Paul’s letters have them, and they’re all pretty similar. I have often skipped past to get to the real meat of the letter, but that has been a mistake. There is a mind-blowing truth here. Slow down with me, and see what was written then, to them; and is spoken now, to you.
Verse 1: from Paul and Sothenes (whoever that is). Yup, that’s fine.
Verse 2: to the church in Corinth, yup, that’s fine too.
But then look at how God describes them: sanctified (made holy, set apart for God’s use), and called to be saints (distinctively holy people).
Wow! That’s quite a lot to live up to. When I think of saints I think of super-Christians: folks who have really got their faith together, uber-godly, praying lots, fabulous witnesses and all that. But if you know much about the rest of Paul’s writing to the Christians in Corinth, you’ll know that they were nothing like that at all. They were argumentative, thoughtless, selfish and had some goings-on that even made the pagans blush! They were certainly not the kind of folks you’d hold up as especially holy. Yet that is what God said they were – made holy in Christ Jesus and called to be saints.
But that is not the mind-blowing bit.
Look at the rest of verse 2: … together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ – in every place and at every time. That means me. And you.
This greeting, this description is not just for the folks in Corinth, but for all of God’s family throughout the ages. So the high calling of the oh-so-human ‘saints’ in Corinth is your calling and mine. The lofty description that saw through the outward crud and scabs of the Corinthian church to the dearly-loved children within also describes your church and mine.
Really? Us – me? We’re supposed to be saints? I’m supposed to be holy and set apart for God’s use? Surely God could have chosen better raw material. Yes, he could. Certainly with me he could. He could have chosen someone with more compassion and longer fuse. He could have chosen someone with more patience and better at praying. But he didn’t. And here I read that I am made holy and set apart for God’s use and I am called to be a saint.
Mind. Officially. Blown.
I sit here and I think, ‘There is absolutely no way on Earth that I could live up to that. I am no Mother Theresa and how ever hard I try I am going to yell at the kids and I am going to be selfish and faithless and I really don’t pray enough at all. That sounds nothing like a saint, and I’m not even in the same library as holy, let along on the same page.
Is that anything like your reaction?
Three bits of good news: First, we’re not on our own in this high calling. The ‘you’ in this passage is ‘you all’ (or ‘yous’ if you’re Liverpudlian). Paul is talking to, and about, the church as a whole. We’re not in this alone. My brothers and sisters are with me, to egg me on (and to knock off my rough edges).
Secondly, we’re really not on our own in this high calling. It is in Christ Jesus that we are declared holy, and he has done all that is needed that we may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thirdly, this is a ‘now and not yet’ thing. We are sanctified. Right now. Present tense. We are called to be saints. Ongoing process. Already and still to come. We already have been made holy, but that’s no excuse to take the gift for granted. We need to work with God in becoming what we are. I am alive now, but I still need to keep breathing. Holiness is a present fact and an ongoing process. Although I am nowhere near the end of this process, it will be accomplished – in me, but it does not have to be by me. Phew!
Loving Lord Jesus
In you, I am holy, I am being made holy
Help me to live in your calling,
to see what you are doing
and to join you in your work of making me more like you.
In you, we are holy, we are being made holy
Help us to live in your calling,
to see what you are doing
and to join you in your work of making us more like you.
1 Corinthians 1:1-9 New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.