As a kid I remember watching the classic film about Hans Christian Anderson. I enjoyed watching Danny Kaye sing and dance as he told stories to children and I can even remember the tunes today even though it has been years since I last watched it. One of the stories was about the ugly duckling who didn’t realize that it wasn’t so ugly after all. As it grew, the duckling realized that it was no duck at all, but as it looked into the still water found that it was an elegant swan. It was time for that swan to live out what it knows to be true.
Hans Christian Anderson might have been an early preacher of self-esteem doctrine, but there is still some reality to the message that we should not forget who we really are. The Apostle James says it another way to encourage Christians to live authentic lives that are consistent with our calling in Christ. I James 1:23-25 he says, “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” If our identity is in Christ, we must not give it lip service. We are to not only hear the Word of God but to do it and show in our active lives that trusting Christ is how we live. James says this is like a reflection. We are to be like people who know who we are in a mirror so that we act that out in public. If we are God’s children, then the reflection of God must be evident in our words and thoughts and deeds.
I love that James uses the idea of reflection in his simile. In Christ, the reflection we see should be a reflection of our very identity. The identity of every Christian is that we are children of God in and through the Son of God. Our Father’s character should be a defining characteristic of who we are and how we act. The problem is that as we think about the consistency of our reflection, we realize that we are fallible human beings who have no possibility of a perfect representation of the pure, perfect, holy God. We just cannot live up to that.
This is why it is so wonderful that Jesus has accomplished all that we cannot and that his accomplishments are actually applied to us through faith. Does the bible tell us that Jesus has accomplished a perfect reflection of the pure, perfect, holy God? Yes, it does. Christ has done it in character, in words, in thought, in will, in action and in every way imaginable. We do not get any sense that Christ deviated even one percent from a perfect image of the Father. This is why the writer to the Hebrews says that Jesus is the, “…radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…”(1:3).
Jesus has no identity crisis. As the perfect Son of God, he is the very nature of God and his exact representation is in every aspect including the power of God, the work of God, and the majesty of God. He never forgets who he is. He is always our Creator who became our Savior in perfect obedience to the Father. He is the exact imprint of God in every way. God has represented himself to us in His Son.
If you are struggling in reflecting the image of the one true holy God of the universe, take heart. Look to Christ and find both an accomplishment in your place and the perfect example for us to follow. When you look in the mirror and see the scratches and bumps and wrinkles and when you are reminded that you are a desperate sinner, remind yourself that when the Father looks at Christians, he sees through the lens of a perfect reflection of himself. He looks at Christ in our place.
We are ugly ducklings. All of us. But our faith is in the most beautiful Swan and his reflection is always stunning.