So, we decided that we would offer educational opportunities each year to inform people what the church had to say about critical social issues and encourage dialogue for the maturation and healing of those in these churches. Our first year we looked at The Church & Criminal Justice, the second Caring for Creation, the third The Death Penalty, last year Caring for Health, and this time Human Sexuality. Each statement had its own hot buttons for different people. As we discussed them, people made themselves vulnerable—injecting their personal lives and deep-seeded faith into the conversation—while also respecting others who may not share their opinions or convictions. It has been a tremendous blessing for me each year to learn and grow with those who attend and participate in this forum.
Unfortunately, this time, our attendance was low. Many people had prior commitments or extemporaneous circumstances that kept them from joining us. This didn’t keep us from having some great discussion. I was thoroughly impressed by the depth in which the dialogue took, and how though we all did not share the same opinions on the matter, we were able to focus on what binds us together instead of splintering into dualisms. That being said, what sat with me uneasily after everyone had left was the apparent absence of particular individuals who had previously been the loudest about voicing their hurt and pain regarding the topic of Human Sexuality. People who felt betrayed by the church (or the “evil synod”), those who assumed that the document was equivalent to binding doctrine, families who longed to be heard—none of whom present for that which was established mostly for them in particular. As I mulled over it the next day, some words of Scripture came to mind.
Returning to his home synagogue after having begun his ministry, Jesus reads the prophet Isaiah amidst the assembly: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Now, obviously there are two particular contexts at work in this passage—the initial one intended by the prophet amidst exile, the second being Jesus’ proclaimed self-fulfillment of this text as the Messiah. Reading it allegorically, I hear myself among not (yet) the physically blind, but rather the sinfully blind. As such, this good news is of Christ coming, in part, to renew my vision—wiping away all that which has clouded my sight, giving me fresh eyes to see more clearly, and directing me to look upon God and my neighbor as I ought to, in love and service. Now, if this interpretation bears any weight, are we not all blind and in need of sight recovery with which only the Crucified and Risen One can give to us? I’m not saying some—those with right beliefs, or right practices—have clear vision, and others not. Nor am I trying to distinguish between what is and is not clear vision. Instead, all of us have sin in our eyes, like that of cataracts or other degenerative diseases. We are in need of the One who promises to make us completely and wholly brand new.
Now, when we cling to pain, hurt, or hate—and let it shape our words, actions, and lives—our eyes become clouded, regardless the initial reason why. An Epiphany Social Statement Forum is not where sight is recovered, but what if it is a means by which the Holy Spirit can come into our midst and through Scripture and study, prayer and dialogue, respect and empathy, open our eyes even just a bit to see something differently? This is not even to say that our minds are changed, but just that we might see something, or someone for that matter, in a different light than we first did. As I continue to meet with and listen to people, I’m beginning to believe that some who are spiritually blind—by whatever it may be—truly do not want to receive new sight. I believe some people are so hurt, so angry, so consumed by their thoughts and feelings, that to regain a freshness of vision would be perceived as detrimental to them. For these, the blindness they have is in itself a sense of comfort—for that which they cannot see, they need not be confronted by. Unfortunately, this may mean that part of what is not seen is the face of One standing before us, who has come for the purpose that we might meet and know him face-to-face. I say this not to be judgmental. I know and love many people who are among this way of thinking. It breaks my heart. I long for Christ’s brilliant radiance to break past their darkness and draw them to look out onto the world and all God has made with new eyes—filled with light, love, and joy. I know my own eyes are in many ways desperately in need of clearing and cleansing. I pray that we all may be given new eyes—that we who are blind receive new sight in Christ—to see all there is as God intends. When we who are blind do not want recovery of sight, we miss all that which God has gracious given to us.