A while ago I attended an Air Force open house where a team of PJs—rescue specialists—showed off their wares. As part of the event I wore a night-vision device in a dark—virtually black—room. It was amazing: I could see everything!
The goggles offer a nice analogy for life. Let me explain.
At times life can be a shin-bruising wander in a dark room. All of us can be blind without knowing it. So we alienate friends; or hurt our kids; or lose a marriage. And only after the damage is done do we start to realize there may be a problem.
What’s so amazing about this is that we’re all experts in seeing selfishness in others. So why do we have this common paradox of being keenly aware yet stupidly unaware at the same time?
As context let’s recall that we’re all made by God to love and to be loved—to share in the mutual devotion of the Triune God as it’s poured out in our lives by the Spirit. The Father loves the Son with complete devotion, and vice versa. And the Father loves us with the same devotion.
We can explore the problem by noticing the separate ambitions of love in John chapter three. In verse16 we read that God loves the world, so much so that he sacrificed his beloved son for us. But in verse 19 people loved darkness rather than God, “because their works were evil.”
It’s a key contrast, but rest assured that this isn’t a call for self-generated moral reform, as in, “So quit loving darkness and start loving the light!” Moral blindness comes from not wanting to see. It’s a disaffection and not an incapacity. The lack of affection for Christ comes because of a blind person’s love for “works” that don’t involve Christ. The world may even see many of these works as “good” … but God knows better.
Jesus certainly made it clear that moral imperatives don’t transform blind hearts. The blindness exists because in our self-protective cocoons we always think such calls are for the person next to us, and not for us. He or she has the speck-in-the-eye and we’re happy to ignore our own impediments as we grab tweezers to do some speck-plucking.
But what if we were given spiritual night-vision goggles? So we, like the man-born-blind in John 9, could regain our sight even in the dark world around us?
This is Christ’s gift of new life. It comes when, by his Spirit’s wooing, we start to hear and respond to his call to know him. This relationship turns us—it brings repentance from our selfish loves—and this, in turn, let’s us see life from Christ’s point of view. His love for the world, like the Father’s love in sending him to die on the cross, is utterly selfless. And his selfless love is greater than the power of self-love.
But is the change instantaneous? No! Christians don’t start to live perfect lives in the moment we receive our new life in Christ. Instead we’re a work in progress. And the progress is that Christ’s selfless love starts to replace our former fallen loves.
And here’s where our new night-vision starts to work. We start to ask how we wish others would treat us, but now when we reference self-concerns we’re not asking selfishly. Instead we ask how a given choice might feel if it came in our direction—if we received the impact of our own choices. And with that awareness we begin to offer our most constructive choices to others, as expressions of love.
Yet this “golden rule” isn’t something we’ll want to offer to others unless our selfish instincts are broken. That’s a reality the gospel all but shouts at us, as in John 15:5—“apart from me you can do nothing.” And once this new love is active, stirred by Christ’s Spirit in us, others start to notice! We’re unleashed, at last, to give ourselves up for others as Christ did for us.
But, as a final reminder, if any of us thinks this entry is something someone else needs to read, beware: you may have missed the point! Consider, instead, dropping your tweezers. And, in faith, ask how you would want to be treated if you were that person. Then go and love them with Christ’s love.