What lenses are you looking through? No, I’m not talking about contact lenses or glasses, bifocals or sunglasses. I’m talking about the lenses of life, the worldly lenses that color or cloud how we see what’s around us. These lenses can include the experience of our family of origin which helps interpret much of what we see. But there are other lenses through which we see the world: the narratives that come to us from the news or media programming we choose to watch/hear; the social media we choose to engage; the political viewpoints we choose to subscribe to; the peer groups we choose to hang out with. Each of these provide us with more or less healthy lenses by which to see, interpret and even judge the world.
Of course, all of us see the world through various lenses; no one sees anything except through the lenses we put on or are given to us. The question is which lenses are the followers of Christ called to wear?
This question naturally leads us to other questions: through which lenses are we choosing to see the church’s activity? God’s activity? Through which lenses are we defining Jesus Christ’s call to follow him? Are we defining discipleship according to the lenses of social media or the news? Are we seeing God and God’s work in the world through lenses of worry, scarcity, fear, or anger? Are we seeing (and judging) the church through lenses of a specific political perspective?
The apostle formerly known as Saul initially saw the newly emerging church and the Way of Jesus Christ through lenses defined by his religious education, his fear of the unknown, his anxiety that this new off-shoot of his tradition would corrupt him and his religion. (Acts 9:2) But all these lenses blinded him to the new way God was working in the world. In his blindness he was destructive, not only to the people who followed the new Way of Christ but to God’s message of good news proclaimed in Christ. It wasn’t until he was physically blinded on the road to Damascus, spent three days in prayer, and was healed by his enemy that Paul more clearly saw the world through the lens of Christ. And it changed Paul’s life forever. (Acts 9 and following.)
Like Paul, we who are Christ’s followers are called on our roads to Damascus to open our eyes and see the world, including the church, through the lens of Christ and the new life he gives us. Instead of seeing and judging the church through the political, social, economic, or social media lenses that are so pervasive in our lives, we are called to see all of our society through the lens of our trust in our faithful God and our commitment to Christ.
Instead of defining what it means to follow Christ according to the culture’s standards, we are called to live according to Jesus’ standards laid out in the Great Commandments, the Golden Rule, the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, and the call to feed, give water to, welcome, clothe, care for, and visit those in need of God’s love and compassion no matter who they are…for they are all to be seen as Christ in our midst (Mt 25:31-46).
Instead of seeing God’s work in our churches through lenses of suspicion and anger because they don’t match the other lenses we’ve chosen to wear, we are called to see through the lenses of faith, hope, love and the new life we’ve been given through the mercy and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
So like Paul, I call on you to let go of the lenses of the world that are directing you away from Christ’s Way and open your eyes and hearts to the fruit of the Spirit – joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are the lenses, poured into us in our Baptism, shared in Holy Communion and the preaching of the Word, and set into our eyes by the Spirit that define, govern, and guide how we see the world and live in it as followers of Christ.
Praise be to Christ for the new Way to see God’s world!
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Bishop Laurie Jungling
Elected June 1, 2019, Laurie is the 5th Bishop of the Montana Synod