Seeing What We Know Or Knowing What We See?

Seeing Clearly (5-14-15)

“Do We See What We Know Or Know What We See?” (Abraham Heschel)

  1. I walked to and from Aldi from church last Sunday reading the book “The Prophets” by Abraham Heschel and was struck by his quote above in the introduction (you know a book is going to be amazing when you can’t get past the Introduction without having your mind blown away!). As I passed by a fence, I thought, “Did I really see that fence? Could I describe its color, height, health, shape & design to someone else, or did I merely glance at it, register ‘fence’ in my mind, moving along quickly and tricking myself into thinking that I had really seen it?”
  2. Do we see what we know (merely a fence, car, building, tree, moon, person, etc.) or do we know what we see (looking beneath the surface, knowing at a deeper level)?
  3. “M.J., come on, man—it’s early on a Sunday morning…give us a break, our coffee hasn’t even kicked in yet!!!” 🙂
  4. But this is crucial to us as Christians—Jesus summed the entire Bible into two major connected sections, one coin/two sides, or better yet, a cross with a vertical beam and a horizontal beam:
    Love/know/worship/obey, serve, enjoy God!!!
    -Horizontal: Love all people as you love yourself!!!
    So why am I bringing up the fence? Why do I want to share with you this idea of “seeing what we know” or “knowing what we see”?
    Because to our shame, we do this both to Jesus and to other people:
  1. As non-Christians, we “see what we know” and think He is either just a carpenter, just a man, just a fairy tale, or just a myth because we have already made up our mind about Him.
  2. Or as Christians we “see what we know” and we get bored with the Bible, get bored with hearing the same passages/verses over and over again. We think we know those passages, we think we have mined all of God’s diamonds from them, we think we already know the Jesus revealed by those verses and so we look for something else, something more, something exciting, something new and fashionable and clever.
  3. We think we know Jesus, OR we think He is not worth knowing.
  4. We glance at Jesus for a few minutes per week, and/or we get frustrated when we aren’t getting fed with “new and fresh” insights from the Bible, our mind says “Fence!” and we move on to the next person/idea/religion/experience/church that will provide the stimuli we crave, the entertainment we want, the blessings/answers that we approve of.
    Other people:
  1. We “see what we know” with other people and merely glance at them, registering the following descriptions or summaries of the person in our minds and placing them on a shelf there and moving on to the next stimuli:
    -Talks too much
    -Had “x” happen to him or her (whether good or bad)
    -Has lots of money (or clearly has no money, again based on appearances)
    -Works at ‘x” profession
    -Has a certain body shape/size
    -Has a certain role at church
    -etc. etc. etc.
  1. We think we know other people, OR we think they are not worth knowing.
  2. And most of us stop there at “seeing” people—we think we already know them because of certain characteristics of them that may or may not be true and thus we never take the time to truly get to know them, to “know what we see.”

 Sometimes I get up in the morning and walk past one of my children and think the following:

  1. “They got up too late”
  2. “They need to put their dishes away”
  3. “They should’ve set their clothes out last night”
  4. “Wow they’re cranky”
  5. “Wow they ‘ALWAYS’ do that! or ‘NEVER’ do that!” etc. etc. etc.

Now some or all of those things MAY be true, but if that is all I see, then I haven’t really seen them, I’m not really knowing them! My children are still just “fences” in my mind.

What would it look like to “know what we see” when looking at our children?

How about thinking:

1. They’re alive! Thank You Jesus for blessing them to wake up again this morning with a new day of life, a new opportunity for me to serve them, to introduce them to Your perfect love through my imperfect love!
2. They are masterpieces (in-progress!) of God made in His image! They are so much more than their current stage of life, than what they do or don’t do, than what they seem like on the outside! YES!
3. How can I encourage/build them up/comfort/heal today, Holy Spirit? How can I help them to know You better, know themselves better, and prepare them for life when I am not around someday?
4. What are they wrestling with, what giants are they facing today, how can I show them that I am on their side (even though I don’t agree with every choice they make)?
But we often don’t do this to our children;
instead we simply see “fence” and move on with our day…We also do this to strangers, celebrities, neighbors, co-workers, friends, siblings, parents, relatives, wife/husband, and church attenders! YIKES! No wonder true friendship/community is so difficult to nurture in the U.S…we’re moving too fast and “fencing” the masterpieces (in-progress!) of God in our midst!

But what would it look like to really see that person, to see them as God sees them, to see HIM in them, to see their potential, to see God’s fingerprints all over them, to see someone who might need us today, who we might need tomorrow?!

Please read through 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 (please click HERE):

  1. “Regarding people from a worldly point of view”—FENCE! Seeing what we [think we] know!
  2. “We used to regard JESUS like this!”—FENCE! Just a man or myth and not the Messiah, God Himself in the flesh.
  3. Christians are NEW creations—we see them not for what they do/have done but for what Jesus has done for them and is doing in them!!!
  4. Non-Christians are POTENTIAL new creations—who knows what God can/will do in and through them if we love them as Jesus loves us, if we see them as Jesus sees them, if we humbly/faithfully/sacrificially introduce them to Jesus through our words and actions!
  5. Jesus calls us to be His ambassadors—His representatives—not walking by Him and others and seeing “FENCE” but stopping, taking our minds off ourselves and all the stuff we GOTTA get done, learning to deeply know WHO we see, and learning how to lovingly, truthfully, gently and respectfully introduce people to Jesus so He can mend the fences in our lives and their lives (reconciliation), and in one sense so He can TEAR DOWN the fences that separate us from Him and us from each other.

Please read Ephesians 2:13-16 (please click HERE): Jesus came to knock down the walls (FENCES!!!) that divide humans from deeply/intimately knowing Him and from deeply/intimately knowing each other! YES!

But what if you’ve tried this? What if there are people who WANT you to keep moving, who don’t want you to know them, who keep giving you splinters with their fence or beating you over the head with their broken boards?

With Jesus’ help, do everything in HIS power to live at peace with them…Romans 12:17—19 (please click HERE)



May the LORD help us to truly know who we see–Him and all others–from His heavenly/Biblical perspective…