Blindness is taken very seriously in my family. As the daughter of someone who lost their sight, it’s been drilled into me to make sure nothing is going astray with my eyes. I get regular check-ups – it wouldn’t even occur to me to miss. But I suspect few of us, myself included, are that diligent when it comes to spiritual sight.
In the Bible, spiritual blindness is a term used mostly of those outside the church – people whose spiritual condition means they can’t see Christ for who He truly is. His Lordship, holiness, goodness, graciousness all completely miss their gaze and will continue to do so until God opens their eyes. But that’s not the only time we find the term ‘blind’.
Peter picks up on the theme of lack of sight in his second letter and applies it to the local church. He draws our attention to the call to be increasingly known for our faith, goodness, self-control, perseverance and mutual love. If Christians aren’t growing in these areas? Well, ‘…whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins’, he says. Maybe partially-sighted might be a helpful rendering of the original there. Believers may be in God’s kingdom, they’ve had their eyes opened to the wonders of the cross, but they’ve lost sight of who God has made them to be and how He has called them to treat those around (2 Peter 1:5-9).
We find it a lot in churches. Believers hurting others within the body and being utterly oblivious to their sin, despite being faithful in many regards – spouses convinced they are loving well even though their marriage and family lay in tatters; leaders confident they are leading well even though their teams are crushed and fearful; congregation members sure they are maintaining unity well despite the fact every other sentence strikes like a dagger in the pastor’s back. The Christian call is to love others with our eyes wide open. Blindness hurts those around.
Sadly, we rarely notice our own waning sight. We need someone to show us our problem and put it right. It’s the same with spiritual blindness, we need others’ assistance. But how do we help those in our churches who are spiritually blind?
Firstly, we can normalise the concept of blindness. Whether we’re preaching, leading a Bible study or having a chat over coffee, we can remind each other that the chances are our self-perception and our perception of God is off (hint – if other people’s sins jump to mind more quickly than our own when reading God’s word, that’s quite probably blindness at play). After all, the heart is deceitful above all things (Jer.17:9) – we want to see ourselves in certain ways, so objectivity is hard.
Secondly, we can encourage each other to adopt a posture of wanting to see ourselves more clearly. Echoing Psalm 139, we can say, ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart!’ (v.23)– after all, He sees everything right.
Thirdly, we can gradually build relationships where we can speak to each other about our blindness. Not just relationships where we share what we want about ourselves (from our perspective), but relationships where others we trust (and trust is important) have an open invitation to speak into our lives about what they observe. Within those relationships we can take each other to Scripture and listen, humbly, to the uncomfortable truths and beautiful encouragements that are to be found.
Finally, we can be confident in the God who came to give sight. If we are in Christ, then the Holy Spirit is already at work in us and – as we lead lives of repentance and faith – our sight will grow little by little. Until that day when all things will come perfectly into view.
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