June 27, 2017

Pride? Or Humility?

Two weeks ago, an eye doctor removed a cataract from my left eye, replacing the lens and restoring vision. The procedure was painless, quick, and easy. Yesterday, he did the right eye. While that cataract was less of a problem, this time the surgery painful and my eye still hurt this morning. I want to sleep, or at least keep it closed.

The doctor recommended reading glasses from the dollar store until healing is complete. They worked last night, but not today. He said to get three pair in varying strengths. Now I know why. Blurry vision is no fun at all.

Today’s devotional reading reminded me of a story about blurry vision. A pastor once told me that in theology, some people become so focused on their ‘pet doctrine’ that it is like looking through a magnifying glass; the center might be clear and sharp, but everything else around the edges becomes blurry.

With today’s devotional reading again focusing on the author’s view that ‘only the elect will be saved’ I began to wonder about blurry vision in other matters. As I read the passage a few times, I asked the Holy Spirit to speak to me. What is this parable saying?

One Sabbath, when (Jesus) went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” And they could not reply to these things.

Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:1–11)

Most Bible scholars say that parables have one main meaning. This one seems to address the issue of pride and the need for humility. As I read it and was thinking about my eyes and the blurred vision of one of them, I thought about a blind man who attends our church. I’m not sure why, but I’ve found his appearance and manner very off-putting and tend to avoid him, not because he is blind. He also came to mind while the doctor worked on my eye.

The first part of the above passage is about the compassion of Jesus. He didn’t care about rules, customs, or anything else but helping those who need help. The Holy Spirit used those verses to remind me that God wants compassion shown to this man, not just because he is blind, but because he is a brother in Christ. I’m not to be like the Pharisees who were more interested in appearing godly than being godly. These verses point to their stuck-up pride and the compassion of Christ. Whose behavior am I demonstrating?

In the parable, Jesus illustrates how their attitude shows up in other ways. They assume they are special because they were invited to dine at the ruler’s house. They exalted themselves by taking a front-row seat instead of giving priority to the other guests. If they are to be exalted, it is their host that ought to do it, not themselves.

In this parable, the Holy Spirit spoke to me again. He repeated the first rebuke — that I am exalting myself over this blind fellow and need to have a different attitude. The second one is that even though God did invite me into His kingdom, there is no way that I can consider myself special. Whether the other guests are Christians or this parable is talking about being in a room full of sinners, the point is not “I was picked” but that I’m to be a humble person.

If I over-focus on what God has done for me, other people drift to the edges and get lost in my blurry vision. I’m aware how easily that can turn into pride at being “a chosen one” (just like the Pharisees did) instead of joyfully and with humility telling others the good news that “whosoever will may come”!

Jesus, forgive my pride and poor attitude, not only for this blind man, but whenever I look down my nose on anyone. Keep me from zeroing in on anything that blurs the bigger picture of Your goodness and grace. You could have decided that our sin is too repulsive and too off-putting. You could have refused to come, to seek and save the lost, to die for the sins of the world, mine included. I cannot give sight to the blind, but I can treat him and others with Your great compassion.

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