Written by Pastor Ed
Seeing with Different Eyes
March 6, 2016 – Lent 4
II Cor. 5: 16-21
Two weeks ago as I was driving back from Didsbury following an Alberta Pastors’ Council, I tuned in to CBC’s DNTO afternoon show and came in on a segment about stories you never told your parents. A woman was telling her story of growing up in a Mennonite home in Manitoba and in her early teens, deciding to try some alcohol. And she became hooked, partly on the substance itself, and partly on the thrill of doing it secretly.
She relayed how she sank deeper and deeper into alcoholism, still always keeping it hidden until she was grown and married and came to the realization that she could not live this way and needed to straighten her life out and get sober. And one of the things she needed to do was to tell her parents about what she had been hiding from them all these years. So she wrote them an email.
And then she waited, scared of what was to come. In fact, she said she retreated to the bathtub for several days. And then her husband came with the phone and said, “It’s your mother.” With fear and trembling she took the phone and said hello. And the first words she heard were, “You are a child of God.”
It was a moving story, and I had to wonder how many parents, or anyone for that matter, would be able to respond in that way. It is, I believe, what Paul is calling us to in the passage we read from II Corinthians 5 when he says we are no longer to view people from a human point of view. Why? Because “when anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation.” And in the original Greek it’s even more dramatic. “If anyone is in Christ – New Creation!”
And I don’t think he’s talking primarily about how God changes other people, although that’s true, but about how being in Christ changes our view of others, so that we see them and the world through a different set of lenses.
Because if we’re talking about reconciliation, then we can no longer view other people in categories, with labels that separate people into us and them. For the ministry of reconciliation to happen we have to begin to see all people as children of God, made in God’s image and be ready to welcome them home, just as the father welcomed home the prodigal son.
The father didn’t say, “Well you go clean up and let’s see if you can behave yourself for the next year and then we’ll see about celebrating your return.” Neither does God place us on probation to see if we can measure up. It’s we in the church who tend to do that.
There’s an old saying that for many churches the order of things is “Believe, Behave, and then you perhaps you could Belong”. But perhaps the better order would be “Belong, Believe and Behave”. God has given us the ministry of reconciliation, and that involves seeing the world through different eyes, welcoming all who come seeking God and the community of the saints. Being ready with open arms to welcome them into the community of faith, into the journey toward Christ-likeness that we are all on.
When we begin to see everyone, indeed all of creation, through the new eyes provided by God, it will change the way we respond to the world around us, not with suspicion and fear, but with a welcome as though a lost son or daughter has come home.
That is the ministry of reconciliation that God has entrusted to us. May we be faithful in that task.
Prodigal Son Skit performed by Pastor Ed and Moni Janssen