"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me'" (Matthew 25:37-40 NIV).
Why, with so much at stake, would we ever abuse this opportunity?
"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me'" (Matthew 25:41-43 NIV).
So often, we blow our heaven-sent opportunities with people because we do not see them as Jesus does. We view them from our own selfish and critical eyes that choose to see them differently than Jesus.
As Jesus and his closest followers were going about the Lord's ministry, we find this event in the Messiah's life:
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (John 9:1).
These people so close to Jesus are so far from their Savior's heart. They are looking at the man as a religious question. He is not a man with feelings and emotions or in this story, they didn't even consider the fact that he was blind, not deaf. They talk about the man as if he wasn't even there. They start speculating on his sinfulness as the cause of his blindness with him right there. He is no longer a person to be known, but a question to be explored as the man's feelings are tossed aside.
But don't we do the same? "Isn't she divorced?" "I heard he might be gay?" "Don't they believe in other gods?" "I heard they really don't like Christians?"
So we easily dismiss our need to engage others in relationship and treat them as a person made in the image of God because we are not sure how to answer our questions about them. We banish them from personhood so we can explore some religious sounding questions. Yet, Jesus makes very clear that this approach to people is wrong: "Neither is a sinner" (John 9:3).
Of course there are other ways to dismiss the importance of a person. "Isn't he the beggar? How can he now walk?" (John 9:8), his neighbors ask. Yeah, just slap a label on someone and then you don't have to know that person's name notice the neighbors never mention his name! The person is no longer significant.
- He's tall.
- She's fat.
- He's too young to be given that responsibility.
- She's too old to be able to understand that.
- She's a Republican, you know how they think about ...
- He's a Democrat, you know what they say about ...
- They're rich.
- They're poor.
A little farther along in the story, we find that the religious leaders look at this man as a problem. They had created their own ideas of how religion should operate, especially how it should operate on special days. But this happened on their special day and didn't fit their theology so they are determined to get rid of the problem not by changing their understanding, but by denying the goodness of what happened (John 9:14-16). This precious soul is now treated as a problem they needed to be rid of!
Then comes the way to view that completely disgusts me above all the rest. When no one can quite figure out how to deny the miracle or validate the man, they call in his parents. Surely they will rejoice that their son who had been blind for 38 years who can now see because of Jesus' grace. But if they stand up for their son, they will lose their place in the community. So they throw him under the bus because they see him as no more than a biological product:
"We know he is our son," the parents answered, "and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don't know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself" (John 9:20).
So here we have a man whose name we do not know, who has been blessed by a great miracle because Jesus sees something special in him that no one else can see. And this man is in a very religious environment among people who had seen him nearly every day as their neighbor and this is how they viewed him:
- A religious question they could ponder.
- A label they could attach to him.
- A problem they had to get rid of.
- A biological product that could get them into trouble with others.
Ouch! It sounds very similar to how we can view and treat people if we are not careful. So how is Jesus different?
"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him" (John 9:3).
Please, please, realize that Jesus isn't saying that the man was born blind so that Jesus could heal him. This is a statement about how Jesus looked at everyone. You find the exact kind of terminology being used earlier in John's story of Jesus about what are truly the "works of God" (John 6:28-29). Jesus also emphatically tells includes his disciples in the challenge to view people this way:
"... we must do the works of him who sent me."(John 9:4).
Jesus sees everyone as someone in whom the works of God need to be done. So with each person we meet, we must ask:
- How can I show this person the grace of God?
- How can I help her know her value to the Creator?
- How can I help him see how precious he really is to me?
- What can I do to show God's love and help them come to faith in God's Son?
Wow! What a difference! What a change! And listen how urgent it is:
As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world" (John 9:4-5).
Night is coming! Time is of the essence. Each of those around us at work, at school, in our family, on the street corner, in the neighborhood association, in the line at the grocery store, across the dinner table and on the couch need us to value them as Jesus does and come to know the Lord because the time is short. Night is coming when no more work can be done in the lives around us. As long as we, the Body of Christ, find ourselves in the world light can shine, hope can dawn, and lives can be touched with grace.
So who will we see with new eyes, the eyes of Jesus, today? Let's remember, it's urgent. Night is coming. So let's open our Jesus eyes now!