In this world a first impression is extremely important. It is one of the main determining factors for everything from developing relationships to getting jobs. We often determine whether or not we like someone when we first meet that person, but first impressions can often be wrong. There are many situations in which we need to rely on our first impressions of people in order to make wise decisions, but if first impressions are our only guides, we will miss out on many meaningful relationships. Former President Abraham Lincoln understood this when he said, “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” If God based His decision regarding the fate of humanity on the things that are easily seen on the surface, we would all be lost, but because of His infinite love and mercy, He looks beyond what is seen on the surface and into our hearts. Isaiah chapter 42 contains one of the Old Testament prophecies concerning Jesus:
Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, Nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth. . . . I the LORD, have called You in righteousness, And will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the Gentiles, To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the prison, Those who sit in darkness from the prison house. (Isaiah 42:1-3, 6-7)
These two passages of Scripture are very straightforward, but later on in the chapter God says something that may sound strange. “Hear, you deaf; And look, you blind, that you may see. Who is blind but My servant, Or deaf as My messenger whom I send? Who is blind as he who is perfect, And blind as the LORD’s servant? Seeing many things, but you do not observe; Opening the ears, but he does not hear.” (Isaiah 42:18-20) We generally consider blindness and deafness to be negative things. I have been totally blind since birth. I remember one day in high school when a fellow student questioned me about my blindness by asking, “Have you been…that way…all your life?” She could not bring herself to utter the word blind in casual conversation. Jesus warns us against spiritual blindness. “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.” (Revelation 3:17-18).
So why is Jesus, the one who confronts us because of our spiritual blindness and opens the eyes of the blind, referred to by God as being blind and deaf? Jesus answers this question in John chapter 8 verses 15 and 16 when He says to the Pharisees, “You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me.” The Pharisees judged according to the flesh. They drew conclusions about the people around them based on what they saw and heard. When they brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery, they saw a hopeless sinner deserving of death, but Jesus saw a wounded soul, a bruised reed, a broken heart in need of His love and forgiveness. By turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to what others perceived on the surface, He was able to see what they did not see. Because Jesus sees what we do not see, His judgment is always true. There is a form of blindness that God wants us to possess. It is the kind of blindness that He possesses. When Jesus was on the earth, this blindness enabled Him to look at those who were looked down upon by society and see so much more than everyone else saw. While society only saw their sins, Jesus saw what they could become through the power of His grace.
What a different world this would be if we all had the vision that comes through blindness! As my mind wanders back through time, I remember situations during which this kind of vision would have changed my relationships with certain people had I possessed it. As I recount these stories, I will change the names of the people in them for the sake of privacy, but the lessons I have learned will forever remain the same.
From the sixth grade through the eighth grade I attended a small school that was run by the Adventist church that my family attended. It was during that time when a little boy named Tommy came to our school. He was probably about five years younger than me. He was intelligent, but he was very different from the other kids. It was hard to put a finger on exactly how he was different, but the way he communicated indicated that he struggled in his social interactions with others. One morning during worship, one of the teachers asked us if we had any prayer requests, and Tommy raised his hand and said something that was totally unrelated to the subject at hand. I confess that I was not always patient with him. There were times when I was nice to him, but not on a consistent basis. One day he was accused of doing something that he claimed he did not do. The teachers came to the conclusion that he was guilty, and I vividly remember his angry tears as he adamantly claimed his innocence. Of course, I have no way of knowing whether or not he was guilty, but when I remember his anguish as he pleaded his case, I am left to wonder if he really had done anything wrong. All of this took place shortly before lunch and recess. When the time for recess came and the kids and teachers went outside, there was a brief moment when Tommy and I were alone in the classroom. Poor little Tommy asked a question that no child should ever have to ask. “Why me?” You would have thought that seeing Tommy in such emotional pain would’ve forever changed the way I treated him, but tragically, later on, I joked about the incident with other kids. If I could relive this experience with the vision that comes through blindness, I would not only be patient with Tommy, but I would be a source of comfort, encouragement, and support to him. I would befriend him, not some of the time, but all of the time.
Around the same time there was a yearly camp for visually impaired children that I attended a few times. There was a girl named Cindy who also attended the camp, and she was developmentally disabled. Because of her developmental disability, I was uncomfortable in her presence. She had a negative attitude and was not enjoyable to be around. I never once heard her laugh, and I wonder, in fact, if she even smiled. I’ve heard it said that a smile isn’t just something you see; it’s something you hear as well. I never heard a smile in her voice. The first time I met her, she and I shared a room with two other girls. The radio was on, and Cindy did not like the music that was playing. She said, “I never grew up listening to that junk!” Close to the end of one of the camp sessions, one of the teachers who organized the camp asked us if we wanted to have the camp next year, and Cindy responded by saying, “No way!” When I later asked Cindy why she did not want to have the camp next year, she answered, “All the kids tease me.” The memory of her words has never left me. If I could relive this experience with the vision that comes through blindness, I would reach out to her and get to know her. I would try to make her laugh. In response to her complaint about the music on the radio, I would ask her what music she liked. Maybe I would discover that we had similar music interests. Perhaps underneath all of that negativity I would find a person that I would enjoy being friends with.
When I was a sophomore in high school, I became acquainted with a student named Jack who was not liked by the other students. I remember once hearing a girl say to him, “You’re not someone; you’re something!” Jack apparently came to the conclusion that negative attention was better than no attention, and he acted like an annoying little brother. One day, on a whim, I decided to reach out to him. I said, “Hi, Jack. How are you?” I will never forget the transformation that resulted from a simple question. The annoying little brother persona immediately fell away, and Jack emerged. He and I began to talk, and I discovered that he was a nice kid. I was just getting to know Jack, when, tragically, one night Jack and two of his siblings were killed in a house fire. Jack’s death was painful for me, but it was even more painful for the kids who had mistreated him. If I could relive that experience with the vision that comes through blindness, I would not wait to reach out to Jack. I would start getting to know him immediately. Perhaps if I had done this when I had the chance, I would’ve discovered a good friend.
What I learned from these experiences is that the time we have with others on this earth is short. We have a window of opportunity to reach out to those whom God has placed in our path, and when this window is closed, we may not get another chance. May we all pray that God will give us the vision that comes through blindness! It is this vision that will enable us to see others as God sees them. This vision will cause us to look upon others with compassion, and through our words and actions they will see what God is really like. They will not only hear the Gospel, but they will see the Gospel, and many will be led to the feet of Jesus.