I want to take you on a little journey today...a trip into a what-if scenario. I want you to imagine a small wooden cottage on the edge of a small village.
Inside, as the late afternoon sun sets around him, an artisan works furiously to put the finishing touches to his pride and joy, oblivious to the golden rays of light streaming in through the window and spilling onto the scattered tools and equipment around him.
In the corner...a fire gently crackles in the grate, but again, the gleam in our artisan’s eye is only for the object of his attention.
With a final rub from his dusty cloth, he smiles and pauses to take in the magnificence of what he’s achieved. Staring back at him is his own reflection from the seamless polished surface of a beautiful gilt-edged mirror.
Now this mirror was special – it was the only mirror in all the land, and the artisan was justifiably pleased at his creation, even though it would soon become the property of a local prince.
Naturally, at the unveiling ceremony that took place in the courtyard of the palace a few days later, there were gasps of awe and wonder from the people of this small nation who’d gathered to see their prince take delivery of the only mirror in existence.
There were oohs and aahs as the townspeople caught glimpses of themselves in the mirror, and the prince and his consort were, it would be fair to say, dumbstruck at the clarity of beauty of their own reflections...well at least they thought so.
A few months later though, in an unfortunate mishap involving one of the palace dogs, the gilt edged mirror came tumbling down, and two cracks opened up in the hitherto pristine surface.
The prince was dismayed beyond belief. Soon after the presentation, the artisan had died, and no one was left to repair or replace the wonderful ornament.
Dejected, the prince instructed that the mirror be given to one of the servants to hang in the servant quarters.
The servants were delighted. A couple of cracks in the mirror didn’t put them off. They could still see themselves perfectly well if they positioned themselves correctly.
Another year passed, and the kingdom suffered an earthquake. The mirror fell from the wall again, only this time a large shard of glass fell from the frame and shattered into dozens of pieces.
The servants too were dismayed. They pasted together what they could of the mirror back into the frame, but the effect by now was not one of pure reflection but of crazy paving. Viewers saw not one reflection but a kaleidoscope of images. It was impossible for a person to see themselves.
And so the mirror hung quietly in the servants quarters for another 70 years, long after those who had first seen it in its true glory had passed away.
One day an invading army conquered the little kingdom, and the new leader, surveying his palace, came across the seriously cracked and broken mirror hanging down near the dungeons.
What a unique piece of art, he thought, and promptly instructed his own artisans to try and make a copy of the shattered mirror, right down to its very last crack. It was, he told his followers, a truly beautiful work of art.
And so, you may wonder, what is the point of my little story?
Well, it is this: I got to thinking the other day. In the beginning, God created us in his image. He gave us morally perfect standards to aim for.
But over the millennia, humans degenerated. The reflection of God could be seen only dimly in human behaviour, and humans themselves no longer remembered the purity of the standards they should be aiming for.
Instead, like the conquering army commander in our story thinking the shattered mirror was the apex of beauty, we began to measure morality against our own behaviour, rather than God’s laws.
And boy, is this having an impact on our culture today.
For example, how often in the last few months have you heard people who oppose taking action against Iraq cite America’s past crimes as a reason for taking no action?
How often have you heard someone, perhaps even a well-meaning Christian, speak out against the war on the basis of “Judge not, lest ye be judged”?
This passage, taken out of context and given only shallow thought – often by people who wouldn’t know a Christian if they tripped over one – is used by these people to reinforce their own moral relativism.
How can we judge anyone or any situation, they say. Far easier to sit at home in our armchairs and leave others to sort their own problems out.
But the problem is, the moment we start measuring morality against our own behaviour, we are bound to fail. How can we criticise our neighbour’s behaviour when our own is far from perfect?
And so, in the end, we cripple ourselves in self doubt, too scared to stand up for what is right. We use a broken mirror as our reference point, not the original principles that God told us to stand for.
Yes, America, Britain, France, Germany, New Zealand – in fact any country you care to mention on the planet – has a dirty slate when it comes to immoral and illegal activities, just as the rest of us do.
But we cannot let that cripple us.
Christ’s Sermon on the Mount was a speech to his followers, to the first christians...it wasn’t a speech to the wider world. And Jesus says very clearly in the New Testament that the only way to get ourselves right is to get right with God individually...
From that, benefits will flow into society.
If the entire planet became born again Christians, you wouldn’t have wars and despots like Iraq and North Korea. The whole reason we face these problems is the refusal by humans to accept the soveriegnty of Jesus Christ and adjust our lives and outlook accordingly.
It is time, instead of swapping insults about our own broken mirrors, that we acknowledged our sins, indivually and nationally, sought forgiveness and got on with the job of pointing out to all humankind that, regardless of our imperfections, there are higher standards to aim for.
Moral relativism, or mirror relativism, is no substitute for doing the right thing.