1 Samuel 16:1-13
The early Church Fathers speak often of nepsis (to keep watch). This was what God told Adam and Eve to do in the Garden--KEEP WATCH. Since the Fall, the nous, which is the eye of the soul (or heart), is darkened. We may keep watch, but our eye-sight is impaired.
Hear the revelation of God to Samuel: "Do not look on his appearance...; for the Lord does not see as mortals see, they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart."
Humans are seduced by the world of appearances. Remember Eve "perceived that the tree was good for food and a delight to the eye," when the heart is disobedient the eye does not see clearly! Since them we have compounded the first sin with our own. There is no doubt that "what delights our eyes," is the result of nature and nurture, two things over which we have no control.
While self-improvement is a noble venture, and in a sense, we are called to attempt it, it is also a relative term. In reality, we are eye surgeons operating on our own eyes. The task is ultimately beyond us, our success will be limited. We can address the symptoms, but our soul's illness remains deep within our hearts.
The Gospel contrasts two types of blindness. The man born blind is a symbol of every human being. He is us! We are born broken and impaired in an world environment which is broken and impaired. His physical blindness is not his fault. Jesus makes clear, God does not punish people with sickness. There is not a direct correlation between our moral states and maladies. We might want to blame others for their condition, but all of us know that sometimes bad things happen to good people, and sometimes the evil prosper.
Physical blindness, however, is obvious. What of the nous? What of the eye of the soul? That is not so easy to discern. The religious foes of Jesus probably thought that they were right. The would think that their scholarship and righteousness allowed them to see clearly. I wonder if I would have sided with them. I was raised to believe that Jesus is the Messiah. I cannot assume that everything I think or believe, even if I pray and study the question, is accurate. When we are engaged in arguments over church teaching, we can stand firm in faith, but also with humility. We cannot claim perfect vision to discern the work of the Holy Spirit. This is the question we must wrestle with: is Jesus doing a new thing or are others offering the forbidden fruit which delights the eyes or appeals to the fallen heart? Remember the opponents of Jesus felt totally sure that He was a dangerous fellow.
Stories which pit Jesus against the religious authorities always give me pause, I am, after all, a church leader. But the same is true for any church leader, or any person for that matter. Our hearts are wounded, our souls are damaged, our mental understanding impaired, our spiritual eyes are darkened. Even if we sincerely believe that we are right, even if we have a Scripture quote to back us up, we may be blindly standing against Messiah and His Kingdom.
Let us take to heart God's revelation to Samuel: "God does not judge as men do, God sees the heart." We must humbly admit our limitations, even as we steadfastly stand for what we believe to be the truth. And we must take to heart what Jesus says, " If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, 'we see,' your sin remains.
I think Jesus makes it clear. The biggest problem isn't that we are impaired in our perceiving, it is that we fail to confess our need for His forgiveness and healing. Telling God, "I know I am right," is probably not a great prayer. Instead, we pray, "Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. Loving Savior, thank you for healing me and make me whole, please give me eyes to see as You see, a mind to perceive as you perceive, a heart of trusting, faithful love like your heart. Amen!"