In thinking about the events of recent days in Charlottesville, I found a souletosoul blog from a few years ago that addresses some of the basic issues. What is needed is not confrontation but love. The nonviolent movement of the 60s did not work overnight, but it did eventually result in a better, more just country. Until hearts and minds are reached, nothing will change.
Having worn glasses since I was in second grade, I often wish I had better eyesight. Recently, while on vacation, I put my glasses beside the bed before going to sleep. In the early morning dark, I started feeling around for them but to no avail. I could not find them anywhere. Not wishing to disturb my sleeping wife, I did not turn on the light or open the curtains. So I found my cell phone and used the light from the screen to illuminate the area. Sure enough, they were there on the very edge of the night stand. I had my eyes back.
But that is not the kind of eyesight I am referring to here. It is not physical sight as much as spiritual sight. In several passages in the Gospels, Jesus looks at the crowd of people who would not give him time to rest and renew, not with frustration or anger, but “he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mark 6:14) The disciples, in contrast, saw them as a problem: they were hungry; there was no food; they did not have the resources to meet the need; etc. Jesus did not see the problem, he saw the solution. He saw that their greatest need was to know that God loved them. His eyes were eyes of compassion and love.
Many years ago, I was the pastor of a church with a food pantry ministry. At the time, it was not well-organized with volunteers to help, so it became my responsibility when people came asking for food. One day, as I was deep in my sermon preparation, a family came needing food. I had to stop what I was doing and attend to their request. As I headed down the hall to gather the food, God spoke to me. No, I didn’t hear an audible voice, but I heard it in my spirit, loud and clear. I had been thinking that this was a great interruption in my important work. Then I heard, “Wait a minute. This is not an interruption in your ministry. This is your ministry. This may be the most important thing you do today.”
It changed my whole outlook on what I was doing. I changed from looking at the situation like the disciples, to looking at it like Jesus. I would like to say it transformed my life from then on, but that would not be true. But for a significant time afterward, it did change the way I perceived what was more important and what was less.
Thomas G. Pettepeace, in his book Visions of a World Hungry, shares a prayer that illuminates this need. “I need the vision that Jesus gives, that sees no difference between sacred and secular, sexual identity and personhood, ethnic group and worth, economic position and dignity, education and value…..Because of the sensitivity of sight you give, enable me to stand in awe and wonder at life and its possibilities. Help me kneel in humility to worship you and not myself. Lord, hear me as I say, ‘Let my eyes be opened.'”
Another way of saying this is: give me eyes like Jesus.