Now I want to make a fairly obvious point: in order to act obediently in the world, we have to be able to see the world the way God does. If we are blind to the world’s realities, we will not be able to act the way we should. Jesus makes this connection between acting and seeing in Matthew 7:15-23. Here, Jesus tells us that we can distinguish true prophets from false prophets by attending to the way they act. If prophets act disobediently, then we can be assured that they are not seeing the world faithfully. They are like the blind leading the blind (Matthew 15:14). True prophets – the ones who see the world the way God does – act obediently. True prophets are also able to expand our vision of the world to see realities that we did not see before.
Jesus, the greatest of all the prophets, helps his disciples to see the world in a way they did not see it before. He expands their vision – and ours. For just one example of how Jesus does this, we can look at Luke 10:25-37. In that passage, Jesus is asked about the greatest commandment. He responds that we are to love God and love our neighbor. Simple enough. Or is it?
He then goes on to tell the parable of the good Samaritan. If you are unfamiliar with the story, I’d encourage you to look it up. The point of the parable is to show that we are always the neighbor. Our duty is not to look out on the world and try to discern who qualifies as our neighbor. Rather, we are always to see ourselves as the neighbor. Thus, we are always to treat others with neighbor-love. Rather than view the homeless vagabond, or the Mexican immigrant (documented or undocumented), or the Muslim as a potential enemy, Jesus challenges us to change our vision. He challenges us to see ourselves as a neighbor to these and others. Jesus knows that by viewing ourselves as a neighbor, we will act differently.
If we fail to act obediently in these ways, we reveal that we do not really know Jesus. That is, we reveal that we are not really his disciples. Matthew 25:31-46 gives us a rather scary picture of this. In this passage, we see the final judgment of the nations. Jesus is separating his followers (sheep) from unbelievers (goats). The goats receive eternal damnation, the sheep an eternal inheritance. The criteria by which they are judged is according to how they treat “the least of these my brothers.” Jesus equates our treatment of the least of these with treatment of Jesus. In other words, if we mistreat Jesus’ homeless and imprisoned brothers, we are actually mistreating Jesus. The challenge, then, is to see Jesus’ homeless and imprisoned brothers as Jesus himself. Failure to treat them this way reveals that we are not followers of Jesus.
This is Jesus’ vision. The challenge for us is to act in accordance with the vision. Do your actions reflect faithful vision of God’s reality, or blindness?