Sunday, 10 November 2013

Looking at one another

It is inevitable that when in church we will see one another. The aspect I want to consider here is not who we see, but what we see. What would I like you to see as you look at me? I would like you to see a person who needs your prayers. Every person who looks at me today should make this assessment, even although you do not know why I need your prayers. Of course, such an assessment does not only apply to me – each one of us should want others to see us in this way.

Sometimes when we see other people, the response is not one of prayer for them. Instead we can wish we were that other person. We may want to have their talents, their assets, their looks, their standard of living, their intellectual abilities, their job, their family, their position in the church, and whatever else they have. Of course, we all know that such an attitude is wrong. But why is it wrong?

At one level, such an outlook is merely an expression of envy, and envy is not a beautiful feature to have in one’s character. At a higher level, that outlook is a complaint against the wisdom and providence of God. God knows what is best for us, and our abilities and temperaments and opportunities were designed by him in order for us to live to his glory. My highest activity is to live for his honour and pleasure, and we can do that best when we have a sense of contentment with what he has made us.

Of course, the attitude of comparing ourselves with others is also foolish because we cannot see the full range of their lives. One of the things I have learned in pastoral ministry is that behind every face there is a person who has many concerns in life. Sometimes these concerns are not nearby, and when that is the case we do not see them. But these concerns are burdens to these persons.

As you look round the church today, don’t assess people merely by who you can see. Instead consider what you cannot see about them and pray for them that God would help them with the hidden burdens of their hearts. Perhaps you can offer a silent prayer for those sitting near to you, concerning their secret burdens. And resolve to come to church tonight determined not to focus only on who you see.

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