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Vision isn't always optical


Look up the word myopia. Two bodily dysfunctions will be mentioned in the definition. One is optical, meaning near-sightedness. The other is mental, a reference to shortsightedness. It's just another reminder that vision is more than the use of our first listed physical sense, sight. Vision is physical, mental, and spiritual. Jesus questioned his disciples about this human dilemma, shortsightedness: "Having eyes do you not see?" (Mark 8:18).

My eye doctor defined nearsightedness as being able to see close objects clearly but distant items are blurred. That would be my sixty-five year old eyes, bifocals and all. Our British cousins prefer the term shortsighted and use it instead of nearsighted, meaning the same eye problem. But, shortsighted is most often a reference to mental or spiritual myopia, maybe even narrow-mindedness. It's a kind of tunnel vision that limits what we see or how far that vision extends.

It's prevalent in us church types because we are prone to visualize mission in limited human terms. Spiritual myopia, what I like to call shortsightedness, is an inability to pursue mission beyond the boundaries of our own ability and achievement. This is one of the fine lines that most of our species must negotiate as we live this life. The tendency here is to overplay our natural abilities and instincts, relying little on God's provision and strength. At the same time, there's the danger of misunderstanding God's plan to work through these jars of clay in accomplishing his mission assignment.

Curing the physically blind was a matter of touch to Jesus. Most of these healings were instantaneous when Jesus performed various actions to bring them sight immediately. Mark 8: 22-26 is an exception. The healing of the man from Bethsaida occurred after Jesus had scolded his followers because they had eyes but could not see. The backdrop of this miracle involved the village of Bethsaida, not one of Jesus' favorite places (see Matthew 11:21), because of their insistence on a sign to prove his divine nature. At the same time, the inability of his closest followers to grasp his identity clearly was at issue. So, the healing of the man was also about spiritual shortsightedness as well as the man's physical condition.

There are many angles and lessons in the restoration of this man's sight. Let me just touch one of them. The man was healed in two stages. In the first, he gained immediate sight. Yet, he saw "men as trees walking" (Mark 8:24). When Jesus touched him again, he saw clearly. My focal point is that spiritual sight is not immediate. It occurs in a vibrant, continuing relationship with Jesus. When he calls us our spirit is born and we have the ability of spiritual sight. But, visualizing spiritual depth happens when that relationship grows and we are transformed into his likeness with every increasing glory.

How sad to note the number of professing believers in the church today who have experienced that first touch, unclear spiritual vision. It came into sharper focus in Mark 8 when Jesus asked them what people were saying about him. You know their answer---people saw him as John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the prophets. Then he nailed them: "but, who do you say that I am" (Mark 8:29). And you know Peter's answer. Still, the eyes of their understanding were not clearly opened. In the next episode Peter rebuked the Lord when he spoke about his death and resurrection. It resulted in his sharpest words to Simon Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man." (Mark 8: 33).

There it is! The key to spiritual vision, learning to set our minds on the things of God and not man. It is the definition, at least for me, of spiritual myopia, the shortsighted- ness of pursuing mission with human expectations.

It's a lesson he is reinforcing in me even in retirement. I love what Paul wrote about stretching the boundaries of our vision. To the Ephesians, he wrote---

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,

according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church

and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Ephesians 3:20-21, NIV

Vision isn't always optical. And, he has the cure for shortsightedness.


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