Flesh Colored Glasses?
March 6, 2016
Rev. Michael A. Trask
“Looking at the world through rose colored glasses” is what we say of someone who is unduly optimistic. Something is effecting their vision so that they are seeing things in a way that is empirically untrue. As it turns out, it is possible for our vision, our perception of the way things are to be influenced by things like our mood, experience, opinions, and desires. Knowing that there are many different possible combinations of these, it would seem that there is quite a variety of different glasses for people wear, each one, offering different colors and perceptions of the way things are. This is why we have trouble agreeing on what is real and what is not as we go through life together.
In the past, Western society has always agreed that that the truth was something that we objectively arrive at together. That there is but one truth. And we tried to help each other to see it. We would disabuse each other of our respective glasses so that we all could look at the truth with clear naked eyes. But this has changed in America. We don’t do this anymore. We have now begun to say that there is no objective truth…. that the truth is whatever each person sees through his respective glasses. This is why we are fighting right now. This is why unity has become impossible in our land. Everyone is wearing different glasses. Everyone has their own version of the truth.
But this is not new, nor is it unique to our situation. For almost as long as there have been people, man’s vision has been altered by what’s going on inside him. In today’s epistle lesson, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, the Apostle Paul says something in verse 16, that opens it up for us so that we might see what is actually going on. He says “From now on, therefore, we regard (or see) no one according to the flesh.” FLESH: for Paul, that term almost always refers to our sinful nature which stands in opposition to God. We inherited this Flesh from Adam. In Romans 8:7 Paul writes “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed it cannot.”
So with our sinful nature, our Flesh, we perceive things in sinful ways. The sinful nature is the first set of glasses that humanity ever wore. And things look very differently for those look through these flesh colored glasses.
Who’s the most important person ever? “I am!” we say But remove the flesh-colored glasses and the truth is obvious. “The Lord our creator and sustainer is most important.”
Who takes care of my needs? “I do!” we reply, But remove the flesh-colored glasses and we suddenly see that it is God. “It is he who has given me my brain, my heart, my eyes and my hands. He who allowed me to be educated and has let us live in relative peace so that our economy will accept what I do.”
What is my purpose here on earth? “Easy, to make myself comfortable.” But remove the flesh colored glasses and we are surprised to learn that our purpose has always been to serve, and that we will find our greatest satisfaction and the most meaning in serving others.
How am I to see other people? the world says: “They are obstacles to me having my way. They must be pushed out of the way by manipulation, by politics , by gossip, or by direct confrontation!” But remove the flesh colored glasses and we learn that the people God places in our lives are God’s gifts to us.
How do I figure out what is right and what is wrong? The people of our time say, “It all depends on what I want to do, If find something I really want to do, I am justified in doing it.” But take off the flesh colored glasses and you discover that there actually is a right and wrong which is universal to all people. It’s the law of God: plain, simple, obvious, and when it’s obeyed it turns out best for everyone involved.
What’s love? What’s it about? The people of our day say “It’s about people treating me like I deserve to be treated, it’s about others finally understanding how significant I am.” But take off the flesh colored glasses, and you will soon discover that is about you loving others; you treating others with kindness.
There are clearly two very different perceptions of reality: One is reality as it truly is; the other is how we perceive it through the lens of our sinful flesh. This is clearly played out in Parable of the prodigal Son from today’s Gospel lesson. See how the Prodigal’s vision was effected. He thought that life with his father was repressive and way to confining. In his perception, he could only be fulfilled if he simply did whatever he wanted to do. He saw drunkeness and gambling and Sexual perversion as an exciting and fantastic way to live. However that all changed when he ran out of his father’s money and found himself fighting pigs for their food. He started seeing things as they really were. His flesh colored glasses were removed and he repented and returned to his father who was overjoyed to see him again.
We come into this world with an attitude that is opposed to God. We have a chip on our shoulder. But we’re not seeing things as they truly are. When we follow our sinful nature and do what it commands we alienate ourselves further from the one who only wants to help us. When we’re always trying to assert our will over his our vision becomes obscured. We need to be reconciled with God. That’s actually what Paul says in verse 20 “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
But how are we reconciled? Paul tells us how in verse 21. “For our sake, he made him [namely Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” This is talking about Christ. Bearing away our sins. The sinful things that we’ve said and thought and done as we followed our own flesh, These things are made non-existent to God by the cross of Christ. He forgives us and restores us to himself and to his household. As a result, we begin to see things as they truly are. Paul says in verse 17 “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old has passed away, the new has come.” Our flesh colored glasses are removed and we begin seeing everything as if for the first time.
Paul should know. Did you notice that this text is actually biographical. He writes “we regard no one according to the flesh…even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.” He once regarded Christ according to the flesh. He didn’t see him as the Messiah. Didn’t see him as Lord. And so he was the chief persecutor of the church in the early days. He actually entered Christian homes and dragged early Christians off to prison. Paul was a horrible, fire-breathing, angry, enemy of God.
But then, on the damascus road, he met Christ. A light heaven drove Saul to his knees and temporarily blinded him. The voice said “Saul, why do your persecute me?” Who are you? he responded “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. “rise up and enter into the city and you will be told what you must do.” He went to the House of a man named Ananias who was told of his coming. Ananias, strangely knew the whole story and he said “Brother Saul, the Lord has sent to restore your sight and so the you may be filled with the Holy Spirit”. And at the moment something like scales fell off of Paul’s eyes and he could see. He could really see. He at last understood that Jesus was no his enemy but his Savior.
Not only did he have his vision of Jesus corrected, but his vision of other people. “I don’t regard anyone according to the flesh anymore.” “I’m not using my flesh colored glasses when I look at you guys!” When I look at you, I see someone whom God considers valuable and worth saving. This he said to the Corinthians, some of the most corrupt and twisted people in the ancient world. Even they were people for whom Christ died. And so are you. And so are all people.
When you regard someone. When you look at someone. do not regard them according to the flesh, but see them as people whom God still values. Oh they may be mean, misguided, horrible, self-centered and what have you. They may threaten you, deride you, mock you. But realize that’s only because their vision is obscured. They don’t know the truth. They’re still seeing the world through their flesh colored glasses.
You remember how you were when you wore these glasses? You still do put them on sometimes too. You know. But you also know what it’s like to see clearly. You also know what it’s like to live in the assuring presence of a God who loves you. Our calling, our mission, our purpose is to help others see what we have been allowed to see. We’ve been allowed to see a reality that many cannot even imagine. We see that God is gracious and merciful and full of love. We see that the ways of God are not repressive, but good and right and true. What do people want? They want to know love truly. They want to understand their purpose. They want meaning. All of this comes to the person whose vision has been restored in Christ.
The mission of Christ, the mission of Paul the Apostle, the mission of the Church at Large and the mission of this congregation is to help people see. AMEN