Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Jesus Way of Seeing

When Beth opens the door to pick up the Charlotte Observer, on the welcome mat she finds a package wrapped in shiny silver paper with a glittery gold bow. She carefully picks the package up, brings it into the house and places it on the kitchen table. There is no card and no one who lives in her house is having a birthday or an anniversary or any special reason to be receiving gifts.

Now Beth, who grew up in a home where her father was constantly putting her down, always feels like she’s never quite good enough, and she just knows this gift couldn’t be for her. “Hmmm,” she says, “I bet this got left at our house by mistake, and it was really intended for one of our neighbors.”

Her husband Frank, a veteran of the Iraq war, sees the gift and warns Beth not to touch it. “I think we’d better take it to the police station and see if there’s a bomb inside,” he says.

Frank’s 95 year old grandma, who lives with them, takes one look at the gift and says, “Oh, I like that wrapping paper. And the ribbon is lovely.” A child of the depression, she’s already thinking about saving the paper and the ribbon and re-using it another time.

As the three of them sit around debating what to do about the gift, all their speculation ends abruptly when 4-year-old Andy bounds into the kitchen. Without thinking twice, he immediately rips the shiny paper off the present and opens the box.

One simple gift. And four people each see it in a different way.

A wise woman (Anais Ninn) once said: “We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.” The ability of our eyes to receive a visual image is only a small part of what we see. The way we process what we see in our brains tells the real story. We have a point of view that is unique to each of us. It’s affected by our life experience, our knowledge, and our feelings.

Is there such a thing as a Christian point of view? Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5, “We walk by faith and not by sight. From now on, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” When we become a new creation in Christ, we don’t see things in the same way. We’re transformed. We develop a Jesus way of seeing.

Now, that’s not the same thing as assuming that you and Jesus see eye-to-eye on things. Many Christians use Jesus to reinforce their way of thinking, rather than allowing Jesus to change their way of thinking. They’re not a new creation in Christ, but Christ becomes a new creation in them. It’s disturbing how certain they can be that Christ agrees with them. Ann Lamott was acknowledging this very human tendency when she said that "you’ll know you’ve created God in your own image when God hates all the same people you do."

So, how do you keep from creating God in your own image and instead become a new creation in Christ with a Jesus way of seeing things? Well, first of all, you have to you acknowledge that God is God and you’re not. You dare to admit that your way of thinking, and your way of doing things may not be God’s way. You let down the self-protective wall you place between God and yourself and enter into a relationship with God.

Being in Christ is not about theology, or what you can say you believe about God. It’s about a relationship. And what is true for our human relationships, in many ways, can also apply our relationship with God.

Have you ever been so close to another person that you understood what they were thinking without saying a word? My daughter and I are like that. We’ll be out in a crowd and we’ll hear someone say something and the two of us will make eye contact. Nothing has to be said between us. We already know what the other person is thinking because we know each other so well. I can see the world as she sees it and she can see the world as I see it. What would it take to have a relationship like that with Jesus? To understand him so well that you come to see the world the way he sees it?

We have some tools to help us develop a Jesus way of seeing. Like, spending time in prayer, not so much the talking part, but actually listening. And becoming part of a faith community where we are regularly supported, encouraged and challenged. But first and foremost, the best way to get to know Jesus is through the scriptures.

The world is full of people who have all kinds of distorted ideas regarding what the Bible says about Jesus without ever diving into the scriptures and finding out what they really say. William Sloan Coffin has said, “Most Christians use the Bible much like a drunk uses a lamppost, more for support than for illumination.” Serious Bible study isn’t just using the Bible to support what you already hold to be true, but allowing the Bible to lead you into the truth. Unless you have moments when you’re studying the scriptures and you can say, “Wow! I never saw it that way before!” you aren’t really allowing the Bible to do what it’s intended to do in your life. You’re not allowing it to transform you. And you can’t begin to see the world from a Jesus perspective.

Without reading the scriptures with an expectation that you will be transformed by what God has to say to you, you’ll end up assuming that Jesus agrees with conventional wisdom that you’ve been taught by the world around you (not to mention dogmatic Christian teachers you may have encountered in the past). But, if you really study the scriptures seriously, with an open mind and an open heart, expecting to be transformed, you will be transformed.

Being in Christ means taking up a whole new way of seeing the world. If you aren’t aware of the difference, take some time to get to know Jesus. Not the Jesus you think you know, but the Jesus who will surprise you, and challenge you, and turn your world upside down.

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