Michael May hadn’t seen anything since the age of three after being blinded in a chemical explosion. He adjusted well, married, had children, took up skiing and founded a business.
One day, Michael accompanied his wife to her optician as she needed new contact lenses and when asked, had his eyes examined. He was surprised to hear of a new procedure (repairing the retina with stem cells) that could be used to cure Michael’s blindness. And it did.
He had to train his brain to see again. Three dimensional objects were difficult for him to see clearly and he had trouble identifying his family members by their faces. But he had vision.
Are you having trouble seeing nuance in complex issues? It’s difficult to see all the dimensions that they entail, isn’t it? People are seen for their political identity – male or female, black, white or Latino, rural or urban, liberal or conservative – and not as unique individuals.
Can we train ourselves to see more accurately? Is it possible to open our minds to differences of opinion and learn something? I certainly hope so.
Every individual has a distinct background and unique experiences that inform their view of the world and their opinions. The better we understand why someone holds a certain opinion, the wiser we will become about the issue. Sadly, that’s rarely the way it works.
It may be encouraging to know that it has always been this way, even back in the first century. A story in the book of John makes that clear.
Jesus confronted people by doing unheard-of miracles, and consequently, they had to decide who Jesus was. Was he the long awaited Messiah? Some people said he was a prophet, was he? Others hadn’t made up their minds. The Pharisees thought he was trouble.
The Pharisees were taught strict obedience to God’s Law and in their zeal they had added hundreds of additional laws. Therefore, when Jesus healed a blind man on the Sabbath, they saw a problem. Their reaction was, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” (John 9:16).
But what about the miraculous healing? They had no explanation for that. When they questioned the man who had been healed, he said, “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see.” (v. 25)
This wasn’t the only time Jesus performed a miracle on the Sabbath. There were several others, and each time the Pharisees opposed him. Why did Jesus so often knowingly and intentionally set up this dilemma for Jewish people by healing on the Sabbath? Surely he could have waited until after sundown to heal which would have avoided such controversy. But he didn’t.
I think he was forcing them to see a new reality. The Jews had been raised with the fear of disobeying God hanging over their heads. Over centuries, they had learned that God meant what he said, and the Pharisees were determined to keep his law. They couldn’t make sense of Jesus healing on the Sabbath. In their minds, God would never want anyone to work on the Sabbath. But this apparent enigma was a gift to the Pharisees. Jesus was giving them a chance to reinterpret the law (see Matthew 12:9-14) and recognize the truth, and some of them did.
Others became violently opposed to Jesus, and Jesus eventually died because of conflicts like this one. It could be that the Pharisees thought their power and their status were in jeopardy, and they couldn’t have that. Some of them may have been convinced that God’s Law was being disobeyed. Ultimately, as Isaiah foretold, God made their ears dull and closed their eyes to the truth. Whatever the reasons, they dug in. Eventually, they couldn’t see the obvious truth right in front of their eyes.
Perhaps the increasingly angry divisions in our culture are because some people have dug into positions that began with good motives and honest beliefs but have devolved into an us vs. them power struggle. It’s difficult to see the truth from the trenches within which too many reside. Social media has further isolated us in thought bubbles.
We need to pop our bubbles and come out of our ideological trenches; to check our vision.
To one degree or another, we all have blind spots. I know I do, and I would guess that you do too. In my opinion, spiritual sight is of first importance. Only when we have the light of Jesus can we accurately analyse the issues of our day. We all have our own experiences and opinions, but we can engage honestly with those with whom we disagree. That’s what Jesus did. We shouldn’t be afraid of conversations – the cancel culture is not at all helpful. Yes, we might come to a different opinion, but it will be better informed and wiser.
Spiritual sight comes by humbly acknowledging our blindness, recognizing the One who can open our eyes, and then following his Light.
I’ve been praying for Jesus to open my mind, to broaden my thinking, and to shine his light on unclear issues. It’s complicated. There are forces beyond my knowledge and understanding at play. But Jesus intentionally presented first century Jews with a challenging conflict, and he puts us in similar situations. N.T.Wright said,
“The way to Christian growth is often to allow oneself to be puzzled and startled by new apparent complexity … Is it, after all, Jesus we want to discover and follow, or would we prefer an idol of our own making?”
Christians who have the light of Jesus can see more clearly. When we converse with those of different opinions, some may be Christians and some may not be, but all we can do is attempt to understand them and pray that they will understand us. They may not. Even Christians may not be willing to engage. All we can do is try.
Michael May’s vision was never the same as yours or mine. He’s provided an interesting case study for researchers on blindness and how the brain processes sight. His brain does not react to visual stimuli for he learned other ways of connecting to the world. But he can still see.
May still finds things in the world to entrance him…”I can’t believe the dust is just floating in the air like this,” he says…He waves his hand through the sparkling beam. “It’s like having little stars all around you.”*
Jesus had a conversation with the man whose sight he had restored.
Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. John 9:36-38
That man had more than physical sight. He saw the stars all around him.
Have you ever thought that you had been blind, but now you can see? Has spiritual sight given you more wisdom about issues in the newspaper?