November 10, 2015

Spiritual blindness and ‘disconnect’

Idealism can carry with it some disconnections from reality. For instance, those who advocate non-use of fossil fuels may still drive a car, fly in a jet plane, heat their homes, and use plastics, not connecting their passion about environmentalism with the necessity of those personal conveniences.

Spiritual life can be like that too. I might advocate a certain lifestyle, yet fail to realize that I’m not living it myself. I know it is good, but just don’t see that I’m not practicing what I preach. This is hypocrisy, which I don’t want as a label, yet it goes unrealized until God removes my blindness to it.

Blind to God’s Word and the value of obedience
1 Kings 13 tells a sad story of a young prophet sent by God to speak to Israel’s King Jeroboam, but God also told him to return home immediately. The king invited him to stay and he refused. Then an older prophet invited him to stay and lied saying God told him it was okay. So the younger man stayed, but when he left, he was killed by a lion.

The older prophet heard of it and said, “It is the man of God who disobeyed the word of the Lord; therefore the Lord has given him to the lion, which has torn him and killed him, according to the word that the Lord spoke to him.” Really? Who urged the young man’s disobedience?

Then the older prophet “took up the body of the man of God and laid it on the donkey and brought it back to the city to mourn and to bury him. And he laid the body in his own grave. And they mourned over him, saying, ‘Alas, my brother!’” Really? He even asked to be buried in the same grave.

These events were to show the king that God’s prophecies come to pass, but “Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way, but made priests for the high places again from among all the people. Any who would, he ordained to be priests of the high places. And this thing became sin to the house of Jeroboam, so as to cut it off and to destroy it from the face of the earth.” (1 Kings 13:26–34)

Jeroboam failed to make the connection between the fate of disobedient priests and the fate of kings who make the same mistakes. His blind spot would be his downfall; he missed seeing it and thus did not repent.

Blind to not practicing what I preach
There are other forms of disconnect. Solomon wrote about the value of wisdom. He said, “My son, do not lose sight of these— keep sound wisdom and discretion, and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck.” (Proverbs 3:21–22) We know that he did not practice his own preaching, even though what he said about keeping wisdom and discretion was true.

Wisdom reads and knows the Word of the Lord, even takes it to heart, but God’s people can do all that and still pin the Word on others and fail to obey it themselves. I’ve done that. This is another disconnect. It is described by Jesus with a story about a Pharisee and a tax collector . . .

“The Pharisee prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:11–14)

Blind because of a hard heart
In today’s NT reading, Jesus and the disciples were getting on a boat. The disciples forgot to bring bread. Jesus said, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”

They missed the metaphor (another form of disconnect) and discussed with one another the fact that they had no bread. Jesus said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” (Mark 8:14–19) They did not connect their past experience with Jesus to their present situation. Jesus connected that disconnect to hardness of heart!

Blinded by personal and temporary values
Jesus taught the disciples that He “must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.” He said this plainly, but “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.’” (Mark 8:31–33)

There is hope for blind disconnects
I’m encouraged by another short story. Jesus led a blind man by the hand out of the village, spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him. He asked, “Do you see anything?” The man looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. (Mark 8:23–25)

Healing can be instant, but is sometimes a process, as is spiritual growth. God is faithful. He gives light to see and a heart to obey, but those results often require more than one touch from the Savior’s hands.

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