Wednesday, May 8, 2013

By faith and not by sight

δια πίστεως γαρ περιπατουμεν, ου δια ειδους·

for we walk by faith, not by sight
2 Corinthians 5:7

The struggle seems to be, between what is,
and what rather should be.

We see ourselves, the world around us—if we are Christians, we see the Church—as we are, as it is, and we are dissatisfied, we are moved to crisis, we feel abandoned, we feel we must do something, and inwardly become crusaders, we must right wrongs.

When it is within ourselves, we do well, knowing ourselves to be under conviction, knowing that the Cross rises in awful majesty before us, inviting us: what will we do? just stand and watch, or lay down our burdens, allow ourselves to be stripped and mocked, our flesh nailed to the wood? find our lives by losing them?

When it is outside our selves, we must take another path.

Are other people, other things, really as we see them? Is the struggle really to be pressed home, between what is and what should be? between the reality and our ideal? And if so, whence this ideal? and what is it? Is the ideal something that really is out there, in past, in future, our only in our minds, in our seats of judgment?

By faith, not by sight—do we ever see other people as they are, or do we only perceive them? We see an image, as flat as the man we see on the television screen, speaking the news. This is what he looks like, sounds like, the surface of the moment to a living being who is years deep and miles wide, whose height is beyond the range of our vision, whose feet have trod what paths we may have never found. Yet we think we see him, we say we know him. He is as hidden from us as if we were blind.

The same is true of things, of events, of historical movements, we do not see them, understand them, either, only what we perceive, only what our minds tell us. The natural man walks by sight, judges by sight, struggles by what he thinks right, and carries on a fight—as if he could—to save the world, even when he says to himself, ‘I only want things to be as they should be; that's all I want.’ But Christ says, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains’ (John 9:41).

By faith, not by sight: faith is the substance of things unseen, and so the spiritual man does not walk by sight, but by faith. There is no ‘is’ and ‘should be’ in his thoughts, for he knows, by faith, that God is sovereign, that He is working His purpose out, and he trusts, he trusts in Him. This is not the ‘faith’ of mere religious profession that can find fault with and fight ‘the infidel’, that makes him an anointed crusader, a defender of God Most-High. Is a god that must be defended any better than the kitchen gods broken to pieces by Abraham?

Look deep, if you must look at all, or else avert your eyes from anyone, anything, but yourself. We cannot see very far beyond ourselves, so if we must walk—and walk we must—let's walk behind Him who is worthy of our trust, and take the path He treads. Yes, avert your eyes from anyone but yourself, but only to make sure you're still right behind Him. Otherwise, keep your eyes straight ahead, let Him, if anyone or anything, block your view of your destination, because this is where you want to be: ‘If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also’ (John 12:26).

Yes, Lord, by faith, not by sight.

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