Ministerial Musing: "Through God's Eyes"
"Through God's Eyes"
By John Tamilio III (JT3)
I am currently reading An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor. Taylor (a professor and Episcopal priest) has an astounding ability to make the complex simple and to feed the spiritually hungry (which, on some level, is all of us) with words that enter the heart as fast as they enter the eyes. The crux of Taylor’s argument (in this book) is that the sacred surrounds us. We often think we find it in places of worship and service, and yet God’s altar is right beneath our feet — all the time. As Taylor claims, “the reason so many of us cannot see the red X that marks the spot is because we are standing on it.”
One line that haunts me from early in this text is “many of the people in need of saving are in churches, and at least part of what they need saving from is the idea that God sees the world the same way we do.” I cannot shake that idea. We, the ones who attend church regularly, are the ones who need saving. We need to be saved from the idea that we own God, that God is incorporated into our side, that God sees the world the way we do. I am reminded of my favorite Anne Lamott quote: “You can safely assume you have created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates the same people you do.”
More often than not, we think we are right. Our understanding of God is the correct one. Those who hold different opinions — to the right or to the left of us — are in error. Their views are heretical.
We judge. We spend so much time judging the beliefs of others. Maybe one of the reasons we do so is because we are so afraid we might be wrong! We are petrified the ideas we hold sacred may be erroneous. So, maybe, if we can prove others are wrong, then that helps us ascend the ladder a bit. And maybe if we climb the ladder high enough, we can see things from God’s perspective — or maybe God will see them from ours. At least that is our hope.
Latin American Liberation Theologians (such as Gustavo Gutiérrez) claim the Gospel needs to be read from the perspective of the oppressed and the marginalized, because God has a preferential option for the poor. This idea is rooted in Scripture. Wasn’t it Jesus who said that we minister to him every time we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, and visit the sick and imprisoned? Wasn’t it Jesus who said, “Blessed are the poor”? This is true faith (actions, not just words) and the actions of which I speak are not just “go do a good deed today.” It goes beyond that. Christ calls us to move outside of our comfort zones to the places where we (not the angels) fear to tread. You know where those comfort zones end and where the dangerous places begin. I am not talking about giving your money or even volunteering your time to work at a soup kitchen; I am talking about sitting down and talking to the people who (unfortunately) need to frequent them. That costs far more than our money or time. It is to put our faith on the line. It is to truly live what we profess.
If I had to venture a guess, then that is how I believe God sees the world and what God wants us to do. However, I like what Isaiah had to say on the subject: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord” (Isa. 55:8, NRSV). Thank goodness for that!
John Tamilio III is the Religion columnist for The Lakewood Observer and is the Senior Pastor of Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ in the Tremont neighborhood. A nationally published author and musician, JT3 lives in Lakewood with his wife and their three children.