Seeing #Ferguson with New Eyes

Biblical Counselor, Dr. David Powlison, in his excellent book on counseling, “Seeing With New Eyes,” writes, “When you see differently, you interpret differently. You react differently, intend differently, act differently” (p.2). To be sure, Dr. Powlison wasn’t writing about #Ferguson when he typed those words originally, but they have an application don’t they?

As a Christian, I’ve been raised to “newness” of life in, by, for, and to Christ. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, makes the scandalous claim that believers, by virtue of their faith, have been raised with Christ, and seated in the heavenly realm with him—already!

When you change your position, that is, your angle of observation of a thing, your perspective and experience of it necessarily changes. A football game is seen and experienced much differently from the upper level 50-yard line, in comparison to the front in the end zone. Same game. Different feel.

I’m learning that as a caucasian, Cuban-American, raised in a middle to upper-middle class home, my view and experience of life can be very different from that of my neighbor, whatever their race or ethnicity. I make a potentially shocking error when I assume that everyone else’s experience of life is just like mine.

The thing is, I know this intuitively, but when it’s time to flesh that out in a situation like Ferguson, I’m more inclined to demand that everyone’s worldview be crafted in a grid that’s just like mine. I prefer life that way, because it cleans up lines of communication. When I use a word, I want to be able to assume that everyone else knows jet what I mean.

If only.

My wife and I watched “The Dead Poets Society” the other night. The late, great Robin Williams gave us a performance for the ages in that one. In it, his character, Mr. Keating, teaches a room full of young, male English Literature students that if they want to get the most out of their reading of poetry, if they really want to understand the facets of poetry, they must change the angle from which they’re observing it. In the scene, he stands up on his desk to demonstrate how much different the room looks from four feet higher.

Metaphorically, emotionally, and spiritually, as Christians, we must do the same. For the sake of the great name of Jesus Christ, and for the sake of his Gospel, those of us who have experienced the good life, the pleasures of the American Dream, must be willing to move—in our hearts, and our literal bodies, if we must, in order to identify with those who are in any trial, tribulation, or temptation so that we might minister to them more effectively.

I suspect this has something to do with what Paul meant by “becoming all things to all people” so that he might save some. Paul knew that in order to proclaim the Gospel to a pagan, Gentile world, he’d have to be willing to adjust his camera angle from that of a privileged Jew, to that of a dirt poor, peasant Gentile, if necessary.

Some may object to what I’m proposing. My old man wants to interject that I’m talking about sacrificing biblical truth, or even truth in general in order to accomplish this. My new man—that part of me that is learning to have the mind of Christ—knows that this is categorically false. I have to be willing, or be willing to be made willing to move, to, as Dr. Powlison said, see differently, in order to interpret, and react differently to the world around me.

If I do not, if I refuse, then how can I rightly claim to have been changed by the Gospel?

All of this, because the King of Glory changed his perspective for my sake. Jesus adjusted his position from the kingdom of Heaven to this sin-sick world in order to identify with me, and save me from my eternal destiny as a child of wrath. He did this by taking on flesh, and then climbing up onto a cross, and suffering on my behalf the punishment that was due me. He who knew no sin, was made sin, so that in Him, I might become the righteousness of God.

In love, He moved.

Why won’t I?

Scripture: Rom. 6:4; 1 Cor. 9:19-23; 2 Cor. 5:21; Eph. 1:20

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