Summary: We are being called to see the world through new eyes, but in order to do that, we need to be transformed by Christ. Once we witness His power firsthand, only then are we truly able to go out as ambassadors for Him.
If any of you have gotten the chance to sift through old pictures on my Facebook page, you’ve probably noticed that in most of the older pictures I used to wear glasses. Well, I used to be slightly near-sighted. And when I mean slightly, I mean it was like 20/400! If I took my glasses off and tried looking at a computer screen just a couple of feet away, it would just look like a big, glowing smudge. It was so bad, that without glasses, in order to read anything I would have to hold it six inches from my face. In fact, when I was in the Army and found out I need a flight physical, in order to ensure I didn’t fail the eye test, I memorized the chart beforehand! My vision was correctable to 20/20 with glasses, so I was able to get a waiver, but if those glasses ever fell off, whether in training or combat, I would be completely useless.
That is why I jumped at the chance at PRK lazer eye surgery when it became available. The Army would pay for it and I wouldn’t have to wear glasses anymore! When the big day came, they drove us in a van down to Walter Reed Army Hospital, and the next day took us in for a variety of tests to ensure our compatibility before we finally entered the operating area for the surgery. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Against my better judgment, I had looked up plenty of horror stories about botched lazer eye surgeries just before going in, and I was a little bit of a nervous wreck.
As I laid down on the table, and the doctor put numbing drops in my eyes, I just tried to relax. The machine whirred into place overhead, and just about when the doc said, “Relax, this will only take a moment,” I began to hear and smell my own eyeballs boiling. That’s certainly an experience I could go the rest of my life without reliving! After 5 seconds on one eye, and then the next, he told me to sit up and read the clock across the room. To my amazement, I could see it clearly! And (after several days of excruciating pain) I was able to go outside and look at the world through seemingly brand new eyes. I had no idea that people could see raindrops when they fell! Or just how bright, green, and crisp leaves on the trees could be!
The most mundane things took on new clarity and definition and I looked at the world with a level of wonder I had never before experienced. I could see! And with that new sense of vision, came a new sense of appreciation for the things I had taken for granted before. I had new eyes and they changed the way I experienced and interacted with the world.
SEEING THROUGH NEW EYES
It’s the call to see the world, to see other people, through new eyes that Paul brings to the church at Corinth in our passage this morning. For anyone who has read 1-2 Corinthians, you likely have figured out that this particular congregation had its share of divisions and problems. The city of Corinth was an eclectic city, but it was also deeply divided. Rich and poor did not associate in public, and the rich of the city controlled the markets, local elections, and even the law courts. Judges were not elected by popular vote or appointed by disinterested parties, instead they either paid for their position or their position was paid for by rich patrons who expected favorable outcomes in lawsuits. On top of all this, there was a small Jewish community which (for the most part) avoided mingling with the predominantly pagan cultural elite.(1)
And the small church there, consisting of about 40-60 people, reflected all those divisions in its own make-up. Most scholars think the church consisted mostly of poorer families who were drawn in by the compassion of the Gospel, along with a few wealthy families and a few Jewish families as well.(2) The letters Paul wrote to the church suggest that it was in rough shape. Members were suing each other in corrupt law courts, Jews were refusing to eat with pagans, rich members were getting drunk at the meals they shared, while the poor went hungry, and people would only associate with and sit next to others of their particular theological faction. Paul had his work cut out for him!
So, in vv. 16-17, Paul calls on the church at Corinth to remember back to that moment they first believed. What happened in them? Or at least, what should have happened? I have no doubt he was thinking too of his own conversion experience, when on his way to persecute Christians at Damascus, He was blinded by a vision of the Risen Lord and made to see once again when Ananias prayed for him. The book of Acts describes this moment as “scales falling from his eyes.”(3) During his time of darkness, he was probably afraid. He knew something extraordinary had happened to him, but maybe he thought he deserved his blindness for all the evil he had done to his brothers and sisters, thinking it was good. But our God is gracious and powerful, and it was through His power and grace that Paul was made to see again.