To celebrate the election of Carla Sunberg as the Church of the Nazarene General Superintendent, we will be giving away 5 copies of her latest title, Reflecting the Image: Our Call to Mirror Christ in the World. To enter to win a copy, head over to our Facebook page.
Below is an excerpt from the introduction of Reflecting The Image, where Dr. Sunberg shares what inspired her to write this book.
Growing up in the holiness tradition, I used to think that holiness was all up to me: my choices, my behavior, my thoughts. To be the person God wanted me to be meant that I needed to follow a list of dos and don’ts to the best of my ability. I tried to live this way—and I failed.
A number of years ago, while on my spiritual journey, I began to learn something that changed my life: Holiness is not about us. It’s all about Christ. He is the living and embodied Image of our very holy God, and every single human being is called to be a reflection of Jesus Christ in this world. His very nature screams holiness, and to be a holy people, we need to turn toward him and reflect his image.
This understanding came more and more into focus as I worked on my doctoral dissertation. We had spent thirteen years in Russia as missionaries, and throughout this time, I had to study the history of the Eastern church, because that was the context in which I served. I discovered that this part of Christianity is quite unfamiliar to much of the Western church. However, I also learned that John Wesley, the father of Methodism, had studied the early church fathers and that they had influenced his understanding of holiness. This led me to study some of the most influential individuals in Eastern church history, the fourth-century Cappadocian Fathers and the women related to them, women I’ve chosen to call the Cappadocian Mothers. My own reading of these individuals is informed by my Wesleyan heritage, and so I read them through that lens. At the same time, hidden in the pages of history, they taught me a great deal about the optimism that humanity can be restored in the image of God. Over and again they used “mirror imagery” in their teachings about what it means to be growing as a Christian and, specifically, in our relationship with Jesus Christ.
These days, it seems we are trying to teach people “Christianity lite” with five-minute devotionals and podcasts on the go. We find it marketed and sold as fast-food religion. Although we are incredibly busy people, we can’t have a relationship with God in that short amount of time. It won’t happen.
In Fort Wayne, Indiana, where I pastored a church with my husband, Chuck, we had the opportunity to bring a number of new people to Christ, and part of discipling them was teaching them to be in the Word and prayer every day. We followed the daily Scripture readings prescribed by Rev. Wayne Cordeiro, author of The Divine Mentor. He encourages “sitting at the feet of the Savior” and emphasizes that this is the primary job we have as Christians. When Chuck and I moved to Ohio to be co-district superintendents of the East Ohio District of the Church of the Nazarene, I wanted to continue this discipleship. I felt God leading me to do this through a daily blog, telling me, “As a spiritual leader in the church, let people know you’re spending time with me every day and making me a priority.” So that’s what I do—I spend time in the Word in the mornings, and I ask, “Lord, what do you want me to learn from this today?” And then I write.
The blog is titled “Reflecting the Image,” a theme based on my doctoral dissertation and guided by Cordeiro’s Scripture selections. This book, Reflecting the Image, conflates a number of these daily devotional writings to tell the story of how our lives can change when we begin to understand holiness differently.
It changed my life. I hope and pray that it changes yours too.