“…the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7b ESV)
This verse is more true than we think it is. We do not see people as God sees them. In the context of 1 Samuel 16, you have a perfect example of this being played out. The singer Ray Boltz described it this way in his song:
One by one,
Jesse’s sons stood before the prophet,
Their father knew a king would soon be found,
Each one passed except the last,
No one thought to call him,
For surely he would never wear a crown.
But when others see a shepherd boy,
God may see a king
How does this play out in real life? We are conditioned by the world around us to see through the lenses of the world. It’s oftentimes a harsh, petty, shallow, and judgmental world. Snap judgments are made instantaneously, many times based on how someone is dressed or other superficial details we observe. We are unaware of how prone we are to agree with the standards of the environment we live in. God calls us to be aliens in a foreign land (1 Peter 2:11). Being holy as God is holy means being set apart (1 Peter 1:16).
The whole goal of Christianity is to become more Christ-like. Philippians 2 begins this way: “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ… then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:1-5 NIV) The context continues showing how Jesus lowered himself, not considering equality with God as something to be grasped, but instead emptied himself, and gave himself for others. John 15:13 ESV states that “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Furthermore, we see this beautiful example and exhortation in 1 John 3:16 NIV- “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
True love is extending one’s self to serve others. I see the spousal love analogy (of a man giving himself in love to his bride) as a beautiful picture or image of how Christ gave of himself and sacrificed for his bride. He even said, “This is my body, which is for you…” (1 Corinthians 11:24). Your highest calling as a Christian (how Jesus summarized both the Law and the Prophets) is to love God with everything and then love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30-31). How can we do this effectively? One thing we need to do is to stop seeing others the way the world does, and instead start seeing them the way God does.
Brandon Heath was on to something when he penned the words of his song:
Give me Your eyes for just one second
Give me Your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missin’
Give Your love for humanity
Give me Your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach
Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten
Give me Your eyes so I can see
One last beautiful example is from Genesis 16. Abram and barren Sarai are trying to take God’s promise of being the fathers of a great nation into their own hands. They convince their slave Hagar to conceive a child for Abram. When she is pregnant, Sarai begins to mistreat her, to the point that she runs away. In the wilderness, exposed and vulnerable to the elements, the angel of the Lord comes to comfort her. He tells her to go back, and promises Ishmael (when born) will also have a great number of descendants as well. Verses 13-14 are often glossed over, but they contain the point I am trying to make.
“She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi (meaning well of the Living One who sees me.); it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.” (Genesis 16:13-14 NIV)
Hagar was a slave woman, forced to conceive a child for her master, mistreated by her mistress to the point that she would run away to the desert to die. This is a person that the world has chewed up and spit out, so to speak. But God saw her. It affected her so profoundly that when others would turn a blind eye, God would see her.
One of humanity’s greatest needs is to love and be loved and to be seen (noticed, valued and appreciated). Steve Pokorny writes about having your vision redeemed (See book Redeemed Vision). His thesis is that we live in a pornified culture and are blinded by several messages the world bombards us with, that contradict the truth of how God sees us and others. Like the blind man in Mark 10:51, we too should cry out, “Master, Let me receive my sight.”
My mother knows that I am a naturist. The other day, she heard me preach in church about how I overcame the problem of lust in my heart and mind. We spoke a little more afterward about our plans for vacation in a naturist park, where we will gather with many other Christians and have daily times of worship and devotional thoughts and incredible fellowship. “And you’re all naked? How can you do that? You say there’s no lust? I can’t wrap my head around it.” she would say. I replied, “I know. That’s the problem.” This way of seeing others is crucial not just in naturism, although it was naturism that was a catalyst for my change in thinking about a great number of things. You have to see others the way God sees them (Imago Dei, made in his own image). He loves them. He doesn’t lust. You also can’t lust after someone and be loving (serving) them at the same time.
Sadly, my mom went on to say that she doesn’t even like to see her own body, and called it ugly. This breaks my heart. Because I know that when God sees her, he sees a beautiful person, survivor of breast cancer with a mastectomy, a work of art not just on the outside, but also on the inside. God sees the whole person for who they are and what value they bring to humanity. I see my mom the way God sees her. I only wish she could see herself that way. It’s the way I look at everyone now. I know I’m not God, but should that stop me from trying to be more like Him?