A sermon preached by Julie Anderson at Southminster Presbyterian in Boise, Idaho
March 10, 2013
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
When I’m preaching on a text I like to sit with it for a while. Sometimes I sit with it for weeks just mulling it around in the back of my mind waiting for something to spark. Some might call this procrastinating writing a sermon but it sounds much better to call it dwelling in the word.
Dwelling in the word is something wonderful I learned in Seminary Without Walls. (You may also have heard it called Lectio Divina). It is usually done with two or more people but you can do it solo too. The idea is that you read, or have someone read, a text from scripture, and you note the first thing that jumps out at you. It may be a sentence or just a word or it could even just be a feeling but whatever it is, that is what you focus on.
If you are doing it with another person you can bounce the thoughts you had off of them and then they ask you questions to get your brain really going on thoughts and feelings a particular piece of scripture creates in you. If you are doing it on your own you hold the piece of text in your mind and dwell on it during your day to day activities. This is by far my favorite way to read scripture because I feel God working through me so clearly.
I did this dwelling in the word on the passage you just heard from second Corinthians. The beauty of dwelling in the word is that you can take a text you already know and every time you do it something new will jump out at you. Ordinarily it isn’t the very first line that jumps out at me when I practice dwelling in the word, but this time it was. Let me read it to you again.
“From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view, even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view we know him no longer in this way.”
When I read this text it wasn’t that whole sentence that jumped out just the very first part. “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view.” That was that part that jumped out so that is the part I knew God was trying to reveling something to me through. I kept these words in my mind as I did my routine activities each day, not yet understanding why this particular piece of the text stood out to me.
Now, sometimes dwelling in the word can be like that game kids play where one person says a word and then others chime in with the first word that comes to mind and by the end you can’t figure out how you got from glitter to Chinese food, but you did. So bear with me here while I attempt to walk you through the process my brain took while dwelling on this text.
At first I just let those words sit. “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view.” I am a Canine Behavior Specialist and my job is to help owners understand their dogs and correct the problems they are having. One of the biggest problems I see is owners assuming their dog has the same kind of thought process that we do, or is capable of the same kinds of emotions that humans are.
My clients tell me things like, “well the biggest problem is that when I leave my dog home alone while I go to the store he gets mad that I left him and so to get back at me he chews up the remote because he knows that when I get home I want to sit and watch my favorite show.”
Or, “We got a new puppy and Fido is mad about it and so he won’t go to the bathroom outside any more he now goes on our bed.”
And about now you’re trying to figure out how we went from glitter to Chinese food, right?
SO, back to dogs. The first thing I have to do with my clients is convince them their dog is not a human, which believe it or not is probably the hardest part of my job. You see, dogs are incapable of understanding the complex issues and feeling that we can understand. So I always tell my clients it really is not fair to start attributing human characteristics to your dogs.
While dogs can and do have emotions they are not the same emotions humans have because they are not humans. What this means is that it is much more likely that your labradoodle was anxious to be left alone in the house and needed a way to relive that stress. Chewing is a very dog way of relieving stress and the tv remote is probably the thing in the house that smells the most like the owners because skin flakes fall in-between the buttons.
Which means that your dog did not sit and have a conversation with himself about the most effective way to get back at you for going to the store without him, but instead found himself alone, anxious, and right next to an inanimate object that smells very strongly like the owner he loves.
Looking at this way it’s only logical that he’d dig into it and have it in tiny pieces when you walk in with the groceries. He then of course is completely confused as to why you are so upset about the very clever way he found to occupy his time while you were gone.
It is important for my clients to understand that humans and dogs do not think alike because it keeps them from getting to the heart of the issue and therefore also keeps them from finding a solution. Because if the dog ate the remote to be a jerk and get back at you punishment seems like a logical conclusion, but if the dog ate the remote out of stress, working on stress relief is the best way to ensure that you get to watch your Thursday soap opera.
So I always tell my clients t when you are about to explain your dogs’ action with human terms and emotions, they should stop and keep looking. Keep looking for the explanation that is not based on your human understanding of the situation because your dog is not human.
This, boys and girls is how I got to Chinese food.
This is why the passage jumped out at me, because I recognize the wording. What Paul tells the Corinthians is exactly what I say to clients. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view, sounds very similar to what I say every day. I ask people to stop looking for the human explanation and go deeper.
And now the rest of the sentence falls into place, “even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way.”
You see while Christ was human, he is no longer. He is fully God which is very different than our human emotions and understanding. Just as I ask my clients not to look at their dogs through human eyes I have to believe that God in heaven does not look at us through human eyes but through Christ’s eyes. The eyes of God. And Paul is asking us to view others through Christ’s eyes as well. Not through humanity’s eyes, not through the eyes of the majority or the ruling body of the land, but through the eyes of God.
What would happen if we stopped looking at each other through our human understanding and tried just for a minute to look at each other as Christ does? Not at all an easy task since this human life is all we really know.
But we can start by doing what I say to my clients. Stop. When you start to attribute human emotions to another stop and look at it a different way.
Let me give you an example. If someone cuts me off in traffic and 2 miles down the road I see them get pulled over by a cop it would be very human of me to feel quite smug, maybe even laugh and say, ‘well they got just what was coming to them‘. That would be completely human of me right? But would that not be regarding them from a human point of view? If we could view that aggressive driver through Christ’s eyes what would we see? A mother afraid the school bus is going to get home before her and leave her 2nd grader worried on the front porch? A man who has been emotionally bullied at work and is so caught up in his own pain he wasn’t paying attention? Or maybe the person is just being a jerk because a jerk is all anyone has ever been to him?
I am not Christ so I don’t know for sure what Christ would see but I do know this, Second Corinthian’s chapter 5 is a game changer. It is a game changer for everything we thought we knew about the people sitting next to us, the people a half world away from us and the people we come into contact with just in passing.
Paul says right here that the rules have now changed. Christ died and rose again and the rules we thought we understood have been turned on their head. For no longer do we get the easy task of viewing each other with our earthly human eyes. Our human eyes have told us that justice means an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But no longer do we get this easy way, this way that makes sense, this way that helps us measure our worth as well as our fellow human being’s worth.
This little tiny piece of scripture has flipped over the metaphorical checkers board and brought every single thing we know into question.
WOW, that is not only the beauty of dwelling in the word but also the danger, right? Because if I can’t see you or me or a stranger with human understanding then how can I view them? That’s requires effort, that requires work and prayer and communication with God and it was sure a whole heck of a lot easier when I didn’t see this passage in this light. But the thing about scriptural vision is that once you see something you can’t unsee it no matter how inconvenient seeing may be.
I looked over some recent news headlines this week with my new challenge of not regarding others from a human point of view. And I want to take just a minute to read you a few of them and ask you to find a place in your mind where you can set aside what it means to be human. Set aside your preconceived notions of justice, of right or wrong, of any kind of language that ties to our human understanding and just for a minute let’s try to see something from Christ’s eyes. As I read these you may close your eyes, or pray or just try to take in the words without attaching feelings to them but try to find a place in yourself that is more God like than human. I have been trying this all week and it is not easy but maybe it is a start.
Here are some headlines I’ve tried to view as Christ would.
*Woman hit by stray bullet near Pike Place Market
*Suspect arrested in attack on gay couple
*Study warns of rise in anti government groups
*Bullying lead to 12 year old’s death
This week I encourage you to reread 2Corinthians chapter 5. And I encourage you to stop, when you find yourself viewing another with human understanding or emotion stop, and look deeper.