Every city has idols and icons
This letter’s for Darcie Burdick, a young gal at The Winds who’s so full of life I sometimes think she’s two people.
Have you ever seen one of those mirrors that shows you something around a corner? These mirrors are large and convex, and they slightly distort the reflected image. They give you a fish-eye perspective, but they also keep you aware of everything that’s important. Underground parking lots have them, to make sure you don’t accidentally drive into someone coming from the other direction. Golf courses have them, to make sure you don’t tee off and inadvertently hit someone with your drive. Ski slopes often have them, also, though I’m not entirely sure why (sneak attacks from Yeti, perhaps?).
Those curved mirrors are a perfect metaphor for us. We are God’s people, imbued with God’s image and called to reflect that image to the world. We don’t reflect him perfectly—our sins distort his image—but even so, we’re reminding the world God is just around the corner. He is imminent and important. We have a fish-eye perspective.
You’re aware the fish was the earliest symbol for Christianity?
Within a decade after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Christians often suffered intense persecution. They were beaten, robbed, shamed, and forced underground. Sometimes this persecution was so severe entire families were broken up, children were separated from their parents, and long-standing relationships with neighbors and business partners fell to ruin.
That’s why Christians began using the fish. The symbol of the fish could be quickly and easily scrawled on a doorpost, placemat, or piece of loose dirt on the ground. If you suspected someone else was a Christian, you could drag your toe through the dirt in front of them and make the symbol of the fish. If they weren’t a Christian, people just assumed you were idly doodling during the conversation. They might think you were weird, but they didn’t assume you were part of a dangerous new cult.
I think all of this is very cool—way cooler than the minivans in the Walmart parking lot with fish bumper stickers next to their political bumper stickers next to their snarky sayings—but the really cool part is why the Christians chose a fish. It’s an acronym. The koine word for fish is ichthus, where each letter stood for Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.
When I say we’re meant to reflect God’s image to the world, and that our reflection is fish-eyed, I mean the only way we know how to be like God is to be like Jesus. God is Christ-like, and every time we wonder what God wants or how God might act, all we need to do is follow the example of Jesus, who emptied himself of his divine privileges, gave up his life to save the world, and went out of his way to demonstrate love and care to both the rich and the poor, the just and the unjust, the righteous and the wicked.
I’ve spoken at length about the difference between an idol and an icon: an icon is like one of these convex mirrors, showing people the reflection of God, giving God glory for every good thing; an idol is also like a mirror, but it’s a flat mirror, only reflecting back the image of the person gazing into it.
Every city has both idols and icons. People, possessions, and achievements can all be idols or icons. You can be an idol or an icon, either getting lost in the way you look or reminding people God is closer than they think.
Idols and icons are both mirrors, but the good news is that a mirror can be aimed by a human hand.
Aim your life at the Lord. It’s why you’re here. It’s why you were created. It’s who you are. And every time you forget and get caught up in your own image, you’re likely to crash, get blindsided, or possibly even ambushed by Yeti.
 Koine Greek was the common language in the Roman Empire, spoken by people from nearly every corner of the civilized world.
 Philippians 2.7.
 John 3.16.
 Mark 10.21.
 Matthew 5.43-48.
 Romans 5.8.
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- Hope Against Death September 20, 2018
- The Shape Of The Cross September 19, 2018
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