On Sunday we will once again use the first Sunday of the month to celebrate communion together as a church. And it could not come at a more needed time. Our world's brokenness has been evident over the past two weeks and we all need to come find healing in the brokenness of Christ. We will use this Sunday to repent and to worship and to listen. But before we get there, I feel compelled to deposit a few gospel thoughts into the collective thoughts of Paseo del Rey and whoever else may read this article.
One of my favorite lines of scripture is found at the beginning of Acts 3. It seems insignificant but I have always found it to be extremely convicting and instructional. It is in the early days of the church and the disciples are just starting to figure out what it looks like to live out their faith in Christ amongst their unbelieving peers. They are making their way into the Temple when they encounter a paralyzed beggar at the gates. We are told the beggar is carried to the gates "every day." If you know the story, it is a major catalyst for the church's growth. Peter and John heal the man and everyone is blown away. It causes quite the ruckus and many come to faith in Christ. But there are a few lines in the middle of the story that have always struck me.
Acts 2:4-5 - 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 So the man gave them his attention.
This man had been brought to this same spot every day. Ignored by thousands of passer-bys until two men who had recently been filled with the Holy Spirit and devoted to Christ came walking by. And now seeing the world through the eyes of Christ, they are not content to just walk by. No, scripture makes it a point to tell us that they both "looked straight at him." They didn't divert their gaze to ignore their responsibility or to remain on their pre planned itinerary of a comfortable day of worship at the Temple. The gospel compelled them to look, so they did. And in an incredible gift of restoring dignity they didn't look at him as less than, but invited the man who had been treated like less of a man his whole life to return their gaze and begin a conversation.
Friends, we are experiencing a pivotal moment in the history of our nation wherein our brothers and sisters are crying out in pain. Truth being told, they've been crying out for a long time and like the thousands passing by the man on the way to the temple, we have, for a myriad of selfish, sinful reasons ignored their pleas and perspectives. We can do so no more.
The Gospel is meant to be the lens through which we see the world. I fear, however, that we far too often let our favorite news sources or voices shape our lens more than Christ himself. Let me ask you, how would Christ respond to someone crying out in pain and fear? Would he sit down and ask if the person was guilty of some past crime? Would he seek to justify the pain? Would he ignore it because it didn’t fit in with his agenda? Or would he look straight at the person and have a meaningful, loving conversation? Praise be to God he did not pass us by but looked straight at us despite our past mistakes. Far be it from us to then turn in self righteousness towards any one else and not afford the same level of grace and care. To do so would be to ignore the very essence of what makes the Gospel good news.
So we look straight at our black brothers and sisters. And instead of trying to write off why they should not be crying out in pain, we instead with Gospel eyes see their tears and cries for justice. We listen when they tell us that they are still treated like less than equal men and women in our country of the free. We listen when they recount story after story of injustice, hatred, and inequality. And at any point when we stop listening and start defending ourselves or the systems that have led to such widespread pain in our country I would argue that we have stopped seeing with Gospel eyes and have once again embraced the sin filled eyes of selfishness that we supposedly repented of when we came to Christ.
I’m convinced that the enemy is using every means necessary to cause us to stop seeing through Gospel eyes, to divert our gazes to other issues or voices. And yet, I continue to return to Peter and John at the Temple gates with a single man. Who knows what was on their agenda for that day. Who knows what other voices were yelling at them to ignore the man. Who knows what other events were swirling around them in that moment vying for their attention. But what we do know is that the whole course of the church was altered because the Gospel compelled them as followers of Christ to look straight at a person who had been forgotten and mistreated by the whole of society until that time.
Lord, grant us grace and courage and love to see the very real pain of our brothers and sisters. Help us not to divert our gaze or justify their pain. Grant us ears to listen. Jesus, be loud inside of us and through us. And may we as a church be an example of your gracious love in this world. -Amen