Ministry of Mirrors: Part 1
Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 2 Corinthians 3:7-9
When I was engaged to be married, I would closely examine myself in the mirror before I went to bed and after I got up in the morning to see what I naturally looked like, what my future husband would see before I could intentionally make myself pretty. It wasn’t a super cute look, so I would play with messy bun hairstyles that were low-maintenance enough for bed but made me look better than a zombie sleep monster when I woke up with smeared makeup on my face. I never paid much attention to this kind of thing before, but I didn’t want to scare my new husband as soon as he opened his eyes in the morning with a crazy-haired version of myself with the classic horror shrieking soundtrack in the background.
I still want to look nice for my husband, but I don't think about it as often. Sometimes, when I do glance in the mirror after being home with a toddler all morning, I’m surprised that he can bear to have a normal conversation with this wild-eyed mess. After I was married, I came to rely less on the mirror and more on the steadfast loyalty of my husband that didn’t depend as much on looks as it did on love.
The Law Is A Ministry Of Death
The mirror couldn’t fix my morning breath or bedhead. It couldn’t even remind me that I needed to look at it in order to make some much needed adjustments. All it could do was reflect my face as I walked past it. It was then up to me to discern how to respond to the reflection. The law in the Bible is like a mirror. We don’t even know we are doing something wrong until the law shows us (Paul personifies this struggle in Romans 7). I never would have known I had mascara smeared under my eye if the mirror had not showed me, just as I never would have known that wanting my neighbor’s Instagram followers was a sin until the Bible told me about coveting.
Paul refers to the law as the “ministry of death” in 2 Corinthians. This seems like such strong language! Referring to the 10 Commandments as a ministry of death isn’t as outlandish when you look at is from the viewpoint of Narcissus. The Greek version of the story of Narcissus is as follows: Narcissus was once walking by a lake or river and decided to drink some water. He saw his reflection in the water and was surprised by the beauty he saw. He became entranced by the reflection of himself.
Tragically, he could not obtain the object of his desire, and he died at the banks of the river or lake from his sorrow. The lake served as a mirror which proved to be death to Narcissus. He worshipped himself instead of his Creator. The mirror of the God’s law shows us that we are sinful, and that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23); therefore, it is a ministry of death. It makes sense, but the words “ministry of death” sting in an uncomfortable way for me.
The Gospel Is A Ministry Of Life
We can’t see our own sin until we look into the mirror of the law, and the reflection we see either sucks us into obsession with ourselves or leads us into despair over ourselves. The rise of selfies and on-demand consumerism only fuels narcissism in our culture. These things can be good (I’m totally okay with lattes brought to my front door by Postmates), but we cannot let ourselves get sucked into this trap.
The law can show sin like a mirror, but only the gospel can lead the way out. The law was a mirror, a shadow of the light of the ministry of righteousness led by the Spirit and accomplished by Christ who died on the cross. Maybe that’s what stings for me, that the law is a ministry of death and that God is the one who had to die for my sins. What wrong did He ever to do deserve that? The law is completely necessary to show us that we need this ministry of the Spirit so the death of Jesus isn’t in vain. By faith, Christ’s death works salvation for my life. Christ's death accomplished eternal life for each of us who believes. Even though it stings (and I think that’s a right emotion), the law of death and Spirit of life work together for good.
The more I realize the depth of the sins Christ paid for in my life, the easier I can forgive others. It’s difficult feeling like I can’t pay for something I did wrong, but that is grace, and I am learning how to live in grace little by little. I can’t pay for the sins, but I can die to myself and live to Christ.
I can respond to grace with gratitude and be joyful in even the hard things because I’m no longer fearful of death, and isn’t that the thing we fear the most?
The fear of somebody rejecting my work, the fear that I won’t have enough energy for the day, the fear that I’m not doing enough, all these fears lose their power over me in the light of the ministry of righteousness. Christ defeated death on the cross, and when I die to myself and live to Him, it’s only up from there! The moment I put my sins to death by faith, that is the moment I can live in real freedom without fear.
What kind of relationship do you have with your mirror?
Are you living out of fear of the mirror or the life that Jesus has accomplished for you?