Tuesday, May 5, 2009

When God Goes Blind

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

                        Galatians 3.28 

All the Children

In Sunday school, we sang a song many of you probably sang, too: “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.” The song earns an A-plus for ethics, but only a C (at best) for theology by implying God recognizes ethnic differences and, ergo, they matter. Galatians 3.28 patently refutes this, saying status we confer on one another based ethnicity, class, gender, and every other demographic qualifier doesn’t exist in His eyes. All the children of the world “are one in Christ.”

God’s universal acceptance regardless of “race, color, and creed” (as they say) is an easy purchase. Indeed, when we hear nutjobs like white supremacists preach divine favoritism, the idea is too ludicrous to merit laughter. Yet knowing God doesn’t see our differences can't prevent our noticing them, which saddles us with enormous—practically impossible—responsibility. We’re required to master the skill of looking and not seeing, accepting without assuming. Some of us do better than others, but none of us, I think, succeeds all the time. We’re stranded in a culture built on stereotypes too insidious to mention. And when we meet people whose appearances fit certain molds, more than we care to admit, we’re apt to filter our impressions through reckless images, media-fed clichés, and, worst of all, fear-based myths. Once we get to know them better, we confess they’re not at all like we initially expected, meaning more like us than we first imagined. We’d spare ourselves much wasted time and avoid needless feelings of guilt and ignorance if only we could train ourselves not to see so much and know more than we first acknowledge. This is what God does.

Leave It at the Door

The Early Church wrestled long and hard about who was qualified to receive Calvary’s benefits. Jewish converts believed in Christ as the Messiah, their Savior, and many had no interest in broadening their concept of Jesus’s mission to include Gentiles. Despite Peter and Paul (especially Paul) insisting He died for all, tensions between Jews and Gentiles proved palpable in many churches. It was equally hard for free Gentiles to worship and serve beside slaves or other second-class people whom they previously were taught had no standing with deities. Granting their equal access to God with free citizens demanded a huge mind-shift for European believers. Finally, Jewish and non-Jewish societies were patriarchal, placing men as natural superiors of women. Yet with increasing regularity, spiritual gifts like prophecy, wisdom, and good works surfaced in local churches without gender preference, much to the shock and resistance of believers who couldn’t reconcile social traditions with spiritual freedom. When Paul writes unity in Christ abolishes ethnic, class, and sexual status, he’s saying discrimination serves no purpose in the Church. In essence, he’s instructing us, “When you enter life in Christ, pack up your prejudice and leave it at the door.”

God’s Prism

The world is God’s prism. As a lens refracts colorless light into all of its hues, the world reveals the vast diversity of expression concealed in God’s light. Each of us is a point in the spectrum, one of nearly seven billion that together reflect the fullness of God. This is how it’s possible for all of us to be created in His image yet remain unique from one another. This is why Paul refutes our distinctions by virtue of our commonality—we are one in Christ. In John 9.5, Jesus says, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world,” meaning the fullness of God exists entirely in Him. But in Matthew 5.14, He also says, “You [plural] are the light of the world.” None of us contains all of God’s light. But joined as one in Christ, our infinite variety of ethnicity, class, and gender reveals the majestic complexity, balance, and splendor of our Maker.

The little children of the world are precious in God’s sight because He sees His vastness in all of them. The instant we approach faith without disregarding individual distinctions is the moment when God goes blind. He refuses to recognize what we see, because focusing on traits that divide us weakens His image. Denying anyone equal access to God’s grace oversteps our authority. Presuming anyone unfit for His acceptance based on what we see is the height of audacity. We were never created to resemble one another in any way, shape, or form. We were made to look like Him. Instead of differences, we must see sameness. Training our eyes to go blind just as God goes blind is the only way we’ll ever see His total fullness and glory.

They're precious in God's sight not for their diversity, but for their expression of His fullness and glory. 

(Tomorrow: Laughing at Disaster)


FranIAm said...

It is so hard for human beings to accept that God is all loving and all inclusive and all forgiving.

We can barely do that for ourselves and it is so challenging to think that God will do it for one and all.

Such are the ways of grace!

Tim said...

Fran, how right you are. It's so hard for us to imagine God loves and forgives us, we can't stretch our understanding to include those who are different (or whom we wrongly regard as less) than us.

I think there's a switch in our heads that we don't use. When we see someone else, instead of thinking "He's black and gay and..." or "She's white and straight..." we need to flip a switch that says, "He or she's a piece of God just like me." Because that's what each of us in, a sliver of Magnificence.

Always a joy to see you here, and look forward to catching up with you soon!

Light and love always,

Annette said...

I'm in awe that we still look at and FOR those different than ourselves to be "less than". Every single way we've chosen as humans to gain superiority over each other has been human-manufactured.

Your piece points out so perfectly that God doesn't see it that way. WE want to see it that way. It goes right back to looking for the splinter in our neighbor's eye when we can't see clearly through the LOG impairing our vision.

I'm so grateful for His "blind" love and the reminder to pick the log out of my eye today! Thank you!

Tim said...

Yikes, Annette! I published your comment and completely spaced on responding!

In our rush to be wary of others who aren't like us, we never stop to think about what we might gain from their love. Thinking more of ourselves is often worse than thinking less of others. And missing out on great joy and love and knowledge that might someone else might pour into our lives because we don't like the shape or color of its container is sheer nonsense.

We need to love everyone, but we also need to allow ourselves to be loved by everyone. Blindness lets that happen.

Thanks for the comment!