I Love Peter (the apostle), everyone knows that. But that boy had some very narrowed definitions that always make me chuckle.
In 1 Peter 1:8 he writes:
“Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:”
Did you catch it? We Love Christ despite having never seen Him. Ha! Such a world-bound view of sight he had at his disposal back then… People get so wrapped up in what they believe sight is; that it’s all about your eyes.
Let me tell you something: no one on earth ever saw a single thing with their eyeballs. None, not one. Nothing you have ever seen or ever will see was seen with your eyes. Eyes are just a signal converter: they turn light waves into electrical signals. The same way a light bulb turns electricity into light or a pen changes thoughts into words or pictures. Eyes are just a tool, and tools do nothing, they just simplify the doing by their user. The electrical signals your brain gets from your eyes gain meaning because it has been trained to recognize them. It is your brain that does the seeing, the eyes are simply one tool it can use to do that. There are others; blind people will tell you this.
We see an apple not because our eyes exist, but because our brains learned that signal from our eyes represents a physical object whose idea is represented in our language center by the word “apple”. You see not with your eyes but with your understanding. Like language only has meaning when understood images only have meaning when comprehended. We all know what it feels like to have witnessed a thing that went down so fast you aren’t sure what you saw; your mind had no pattern to grasp from the signals it was getting so you saw a big mess of nothing.
Seeing Jesus is no different: you just have to look for Him and learn what He looks like. If you never look you will never see Him, and if you are looking for the wrong pattern you’ll miss Him. I see Christ daily. I look my Father in the face many times a day. We all do, we just need to get better at recognizing and marking it to ourselves. You see Him by using your Kingdom vision, by using His perspective. Maybe this is too cerebral, too sciency; let me try a different tactic.
Let’s talk about Abram. Not Abraham, but Abram — back before he moved into his Kingdom destiny. When God called him to seek the promised land he had lived 75 years in the world. This was a harsh time in history, too: two of the largest cities on earth were absolutely devoted to serving animalistic urges. One of them gave us the very word used to describe their favorite fornication: sodomy — to behave as Sodom behaved. Abram was not a blank slate waiting for God to speak; he had learned a lifetime of lessons in how to navigate that world, to stay alive in the world. Those remained in him despite his newfound relationship with God. I can sympathize.
Every once in awhile at my church I am reminded that I am an outsider there. It’s never malicious or purposeful, but there will come a little thing, usually a “church term” that I’m completely unfamiliar with and the shock in those who now have to educate me on it, that marks this dissonance for me, that reminds me I’m a stranger in a foreign land. It’s the result of a lifetime in the dark as a lost man that taught me caution, attention, defense. I am constantly analyzing everything I see and hear for signs of threat because there are things in the dark that will quite literally eat you if you aren’t vigilant, and I still see those things as a saved man. Abram did, too. How do I know?
Genesis 12:10 (emphasis mine):
“And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land.”
He didn’t head to Egypt because the Lord told him to, he did it because he knew what starvation looked like and wanted to escape it. He saw death and ran, and nevermind what God may have said about it if he’d asked.
“And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon:”
He knew the men of the world would kill him and take her, so he devised a plan to save their lives. Again, he saw death and corruption in the world and used that to plot a course away. This wasn’t divine advice; he again didn’t even ask God.
“And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.”
He didn’t go to war because he was told to, it was a worldly defense. He knew how to fight and had trained fighters because he lived in a world at war. He saw trouble and met it in kind.
“That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich:”
He didn’t accept a gift from a worldly king and that was because he had learned, in the world, how to avoid the entangling web of favors owed. He saw a trap and avoided it using his existing knowledge of the world.
“And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.”
He decided to cheat on his wife because he was chasing a worldly expectation of how to fulfill his fatherhood. He saw barrenness in Sarai and responded with worldly logic.
In all of these examples Abram wasn’t acting from his newfound knowledge of God or from something God said to him; he was falling back to his century of training in the world that told him how to deal with things like these. In all of these examples he saw a pattern and recognized the world.
We all do the same. We expect bad things to happen and good things not to happen because we have a history of being hurt by the world, so we avoid “getting our hopes up.” It is a control mechanism: if I always expect bad then I have controlled my future because I have prepared for all potentially hurtful possibilities; I have protected myself. That same desire for control is what led Peter to do so many of the bone-headed things he did. He didn’t deny Jesus because he’d turned on his friend, he denied Jesus because he was in a bad mood and these people kept annoying him. He did what any good redneck would do: “go away, idiot, you have the wrong guy.” He saw with his earthly vision, and that’s why he had so much trouble. It is also why we call God unseen: because we don’t actually trust Him. Let me pour salt on that for a second.
We don’t see God not because we don’t recognize Him; no, we don’t see Him because if we admit we do then it shatters our illusion that we are steering. Think about it: if we expect bad as a control, a self defense, then we are actually saying we can’t trust Him to protect us. We can point to times we followed Him, or even times others followed Him, and got hurt and we don’t want that to happen again. We have had times where we needed Him and He didn’t speak, and the anguish of that needs to be avoided. We keep our reigns because we don’t trust Him, because trusting Him is dangerous. He’s unseen, unheard, so we can be led astray. But none of that is true: He isn’t invisible, and He doesn’t let us go. But He also doesn’t conform to our mandate of what He should do or say, or where He should appear. We want to see Him in our finances, but He didn’t show up there so He’s unreliable. That’s control for us: we need Him to do things by our vision so we can know He will behave according to our desire before we allow Him to be the God of all things. Baby steps.
But He isn’t a baby steps God. He is in control of all things whether you and I agree or not. What we want out of a situation has nothing to do with what is really needed, so thankfully He doesn’t have to conform to our wishes. If we choose to see God in our everyday lives then we are forced to understand that He is there in all of it directing events all around us and that we don’t really have any control, that all we really have with our so-called “free will” is the ability to choose how we feel, how we emote, how we view what is happening. We become forced to grok that He has ordered ALL of our days and that our actions and reactions, though free, are fully known before we ever begin to process them.
I see so many people get lost in the trap of this free will thing. We have no reigns, brothers and sisters, save one: we get to choose how we feel about it, how we view it, how we set our attitude about it. We can have joy unspeakable and faith unsinkable, we can have bitterness eternal and rage uncontrollable, or we can sit anywhere in between. That is our choice, that is what we control, that is exercising our will. That idea isn’t compatible with the world, so we hate it. We reject it. We stomp our feet and demand it be otherwise. We choose not to see it as it is. I had a high school economics teacher who said it beautifully: “you see what you want to see, and you hear what you want to hear.” Bingo.
We sit in the world straddling the line of faith: we profess devotion to a God we declare is invisible so that we won’t have to cede full authority to Him. Like Abram we want the Lord’s direction, but we want to define our own terms. This is what it means to be double-minded, this is what it means to worship death, this is what it means to be in the world: it means refusing to see with our Kingdom vision in order to prop up our defenses against His ability to hurt us or disappoint us. But that doesn’t make it true or real, it just makes it sad and errant. We need to do better. We need to reeducate ourselves.
We need to put our carnality to death by using our Kingdom senses. We need to see and hear with God’s view. We need to start accepting the blood and freeing ourselves of the bonds of this world and all its fears, defenses, and controls. That lets us get out of the world so we can function in it as His vessels, according to His will, not our own.
Father, I do see You. I see the Spirit move in me and others, I see Your face in every circumstance asking if I believe you Love me, and I absolutely see Christ in every face of servanthood, outreach, and compassion that I come across. I saw You as I wrote this. I saw You today in my work. I. See. You. Thank You for this understanding, thank You for Your glorious presence in my life. I pray that others have eyes to see You in this message, that You can work in them a new thing, a new sense, a new understanding, a new freedom. In the precious and mighty name of Your Word, my King, and my Brother — Jesus — I pray. Amen.