Sermon in Practice: doing good requires first seeing well

She asked, “did you see it?”

I said, “what?”

“In the bathroom,” she added, thinking location would clarify.

“What are you talking about,” I asked donning one of those hapless looks I’m accustomed to  when I can’t find the answer I think she wants?

“Don’t tell me you didn’t notice it,” she laments, her tone, while non-threatening, has nevertheless accrued a kind of intensity now.

I stand there with my mouth open, like a dog trying to understand english, when finally she rescues me, “the IMG_3102flower….there in the windowsill.”

I see the flower and say, “oh–the flower.  No, I hadn’t noticed. Pretty.” My affirmation rang slightly hollow but it was enough to satisfy her. (like that scene in Adam’s Rib when Katherine Hepburn tries to get her husband, played by Spencer Tracy, to notice her outfit with a subtle but firm comment, “this is the dress I’m wearing.”)

The bathroom that day was exactly the same as it had been, save the addition of the modest but fetching flower just off the bathtub.  What was new and noticeable was nonetheless camouflaged by the all-too-familiar.

We tried to get our minds and hearts around the category of good works last Sunday, and noted that the truest and only sustainable motives for doing the good God prepared for us to do (Eph 2:10) lie in remembering what we once were apart from Christ, and what God has done for us in Christ.  When the gospel permeates us it naturally compels us to do good as has been done to us, but not as a means to compensate for the good.

But while motives matter, so does our sight. Unless we see where good works are needed, all the motive in the world won’t bring the need out from behind the camouflage of our own familiarity.

John Stott writes,

True love is always observant, and the eyes of Jesus never missed the sight of need.  Nobody could accuse him of being like the priest and Levite in his parable of the Good Samaritan.  Of both it is written, ‘he saw him’.  Yet each saw him without seeing, for he looked the other way, and so ‘passed by on the other side’.  Jesus, on the other hand, truly ‘saw’.  He was not afraid to look human need in the face, in all its ugly reality.  And what he saw invariably moved him to compassion, and so to compassionate service.  Sometimes, he spoke.  But his compassion never dissipated itself in words; it found expression in deeds.  He saw, he felt, he acted.  The movement was from the eye to the heart, and from the heart to the hand.  His compassion was always aroused by the sight of need, and it always led to constructive action.

Our pace, our priorities, our patterns all tend to let the familiar blur our vision and obscure the out of place.  But if sight is so crucial to letting the good done to us in God spur us on to the good His love means to provoke, then before we can do the good we have to see the need.

So if you’re looking for a way to put the sermon into practice this week, and henceforth, it might begin with a prayer for vision.  To see your world and where it is wanting.


Author: Glenn Machlan

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