Seeing with New Eyes
by Stephen Trout
It’s an odd (and humbling) thing to wake up and realize that the glasses you’ve relied on to see are suddenly blurry.
Yesterday, they worked just fine; overnight, the darn things seem to have lost their focus.
It’s an apt comparison to the “eyes of our hearts.”
In fact, the need for clear “heart sight” is a central prayer throughout Scripture, due to a natural tendency towards blindness:
“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Ps. 119:18).
“… remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you…”
“Seeing” in this sense has to do with wisdom — which, though we might have expected a list of “how-tos” — turns out to be a Person:
“And because of him, you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:30, 31)
Note how this leads not to a puffed up or arrogant spirit, but actually produces less boasting, and the fruit of Christ’s Spirit:
“…the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3
Why we Care About These Things
Here are just two reasons: storms and headlines.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you about life’s storms. As the rains hit and we’re taking on water, our vision for life and ministry can begin to blur. We may even lose hope, feeling that Jesus — the one guy who can do anything about the storm — is asleep in the boat!
God knows, that is why the prayer is so central: Faith and rest in the finished work of Christ are the daily “spectacles” (faith) we all need to see clearly. Yet the good news is that even when our vision does get blurry, he continues to see us clearly:
“The eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love.” Ps. 33:18
In addition, wisdom and renewed vision help us make more sense of the headlines. Like the sons of Issachar, we learn to “understand the times” (1 Chron. 12:32) — even if the details aren’t clear.
Rather than responding by trumpeting a moralistic or political agenda, we can interact with greater clarity and thoughtfulness for our particular moment — for the need is still Jesus, still “faith working through love.” (Gal. 5:6)
But perhaps you will respond, “What do you mean, ‘understand the times’? There’s nothing new under the sun!”
True enough. But sometimes, when this greater clarity comes, we realize that our old ways of interacting maybe weren’t the best anyway.
New Ways of Interacting
Consider a case in point:
One popular view of ministering to people is to first show them their sins, in order to help them see their need for Christ. Essentially, the starting place is Genesis 3 — the Fall of man into sin.
The classic tool for this is the “Roman’s Road” approach of scripture sharing. You may have even memorized the verses (good for you if so!).
Typically, the first step onto the road is to say something like this to someone: “Do you realize that “all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God”? (Romans 3:23).
But let’s pause for a second: is that always the best first step? Besides the fact that they may not even have a clear understanding of “sin,” might there be more to human beings than seeing them as only “sin on two legs,” as someone put it?
Don’t get me wrong — our indwelling sin is our greatest problem. Our greatest need is to be forgiven, “justified by his grace, through the redemption that comes by Christ Jesus” which brings us into a right relationship with God (3:24). (Note how Jesus demonstrates this with the paralyzed man, Lk. 5).
This goes deeper than our concerns about poor self-image, broken relationships, or woundedness.
Of course, those things certainly matter. But they’re the of sin’s entrance into the world, not the root cause.
(We hasten to add that abuse especially may not be the result of our sin, but the sins of others against us. This is important to stress, for no one asks for abuse — though they can sometimes feel as if they did. Responding with compassion is critical to help them see a loving God; One who knows what it is to be abused and who intimately and emotionally involves himself with our pain).
But what if our starting point instead was Genesis 1 — where Scripture starts?
Here we see that every person — whether they know God or not — is made in his image, possessing inherent dignity and an honored place in God’s creation.
So what might we see if we aim for dignity first, instead of trying to convince someone of sin?
I want to suggest that this can lead to four things, at least:
1. Finding common ground.
Rather than assuming a defensive posture where we “lob grenades over the wall” at all the ways an unbeliever is wrong, we can realize and affirm our common ground with them.
For instance, our shared dignity as image-bearers will translate into both of us reflecting God’s heart in some way — maybe a passion for justice, or artistic creativity.
As John Calvin put it: “the mind of man, though fallen and perverted from its wholeness, is nevertheless clothed and ornamented with God’s excellent gifts…”
They themselves may not acknowledge where these things come from, but we can certainly express our appreciation when we see them. And since everyone longs to be valued, our enjoyment of them will help build relational currency and trust, rather than immediately creating a spirit of opposition.
2. Being quick to listen, slow to speak.
We are called to this as believers, but it’s an area where often fail because we like to hear ourselves talk. We might tell ourselves it’s about righteousness, but usually a pride thing, this needing to be right, and approved.
In contrast, when someone feels heard, they will (again) feel valued, noting that someone took the time to listen carefully, see them more clearly, and not assume things about them.
3. Asking questions, graciously.
When we do open our mouths to speak, what if we began by asking some clarifying “get to know you better” questions?
This too is a gracious way to build relationship, demonstrating the humility of wanting to understand, and that we’re more interested in than being right, or heard.
4. Serving in love.
This should really be #1, though it is actually a part of each point.
We don’t listen and ask questions so that we might now set about fixing another person.
What if, instead, our main intent was to empathize; to comfort?
Maybe we could pray with them — the very act of which demonstrates that we aren’t “the Fixer.” In truth, we’re both needy for grace, and can cry out together to the God who hears and is “close to the broken-hearted” — who alone can rescue and save.
This shows them too that we’re not the Holy Spirt, who alone can convict. No one wants to know how much you know — until they see how much you care.
Our hope and prayer in mentioning these four things is that we’ll see others more clearly, with a “renewed mind” and heart that will help shape our ministry focus.
If so, your writing, preaching, teaching, and website content will be more graciously informed, with the stronger, more pleasing aroma of Christ as a result.
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Originally published at https://www.truepath.com on August 9, 2022.