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Transforming what you see

Changing the view of others
Changing the view of others

Spiritual transformation, according to Wikipedia, “involves a fundamental change in a person’s sacred or spiritual life.”

Thanks for the vague definition, Wikipedia.

However, I don’t think there really is a specific definition or meaning for spiritual transformation. It’s sort of how Justice Potter Stewart described pornography: I know it when I see it.

That’s because spirituality can really be as unique as an individual. What I may consider sacred, you may think is silly and vice versa.

Some may experience spiritual transformation as becoming in tune with the world around them.
Others may define spiritual transformation as just becoming a nice(r) person.

I don’t want to be the one that plays Spiritual Transformation Police, either--validating one’s experience and then look at another’s and say, “But did you really experience a spiritual transformation?”

Rather than spend this time talking about the meaning of spiritual transformation ad nauseam. I’d rather talk about a side effect of spiritual transformation, at least for us Christian. Spiritual transformation affects the way we see.

We don’t see things as they are, Richard Rohr says. We see them as we are. He also explains that good religion is about seeing rightly.

How you see is what you see. So religion at its best is supposed to teach us to see things how God sees them. When we experience a transformation, we stop seeing things that we want to see and slowly come awake to seeing things how God sees them.

One of the most powerful questions (for me) that Jesus posed comes from Luke when he asked Simon the Pharisee Do you see this woman?

In Luke 7, Jesus is invited to a party thrown by Simon. While they were eating a woman barges in with perfume in an alabaster vase. She begins to cry into Jesus’ feet, wetting them with her tears. She wipes the tears with her hair, kisses his feet, and pours the perfume onto his feet.

Simon, the host, is furious. He thinks to himself: If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. He would know that she is a sinner. (v. 39).

There are so many things that we 21st Century Americans miss in this story:.
First off, it is assumed that this woman is a sex worker. Secondly, women are not allowed where the men gather--let alone this kind of woman. Simon’s reputation is being terribly harmed.
Not only that, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the other men are trying to hide their faces because they’ve used her services before.

Now, in order to wipe her tears off of Jesus’ feet with her hair, it’s implied that she’d have to let her hair down — which again means nothing to us today. But in that day and age, to let your hair down as a woman in public is beyond scandalous. That was reserved for private bedrooms only.

All these social protocols being broken in his home. Of course, Simon is furious.
Jesus could probably feel the fumes coming off of Simon.
He says to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you” (v.40) and begins to tell a story about two people who owed money.

After Jesus tells his story, he asks Simon that question: do you see this woman?

Simon’s probably thinking, “Well yea. Of course I see her! Why do you think I’m seething here?!? We all see her! We’re all upset because we see her!”

But Jesus asking Simon do you see her? Not her labels; not her sins; not her lifestyle; her?All Simon could see was the town prostitute; the unclean woman; the sinner.
He couldn’t see that she was somebody’s daughter; that she could be somebody’s sister; that she could be somebody’s mother, even. He couldn’t see her humanity.

He couldn’t see what unfortunate series of events led her to where she is now.
Like, maybe she was sold as a slave by her parents and that owner made her turn tricks. Or maybe she was married and her husband died or, worse, abandoned her. Remember, in those times a woman’s worth was tied to a man (son, father, husband). And because women could not own property, a man-less woman is pretty much out of options and luck.

She didn’t grow up dreaming of this lifestyle. But Simon couldn’t see that. He only saw her situation and not her humanity.

But Jesus? Jesus saw her. Jesus recognized her past but also saw her future. Jesus looked past her past, her sins, her mistakes, her lifestyle, and instead saw the image of God in her. That’s what Jesus did.
She was his people: the unlovable; the outcasts; the outsiders; the make-Karens-Clutch-Their-Pearls; the nobodies; the “them” in the “us vs. them.” Jesus saw not what they have done, but what they could be.

 

Jesus recognizes their emptiness and brokenness and, instead of amplifying it; instead of shaming people for it, Jesus provides hope, healing, restoration, and redemption.

 

When we experience spiritual formation, it should change the way we see things because something deep within us fundamentally shifted.
We see things how we are, and now because who we are may have changed, we see things with Christ-tinted glasses.

And when we see things with those Christ-tinted glasses, when we see things how God sees them, we start seeing how people belong. We stop seeing how to keep people out and start seeing how to include them into our community — just like Jesus did.

At the end of the day, what makes one a “good Christian” isn’t about how much theology one knows, how many Bible verses one memorize, how often one comes to church, how much one gives in time and money, nor how many rules one follows to a T (which, please don’t get me wrong, are important things to do). I think what makes someone a real Christian — a little Christ — is the ability to see the image of God--to see Christ in everything and everyone.

Because we are Christians, Christ is the light that illuminates everything we can see. And since Christ’s light touches everything and everyone, we should be able to see Christ in everything and everyone.

If you see hatred; if you see fear; if you see ways people don’t belong — then who or what is the light that shines your world? I don’t think it’s Christ. Because if Christ is truly the shining light of your world, then we can’t help but see Jesus in everyone and everything.

How do you see?

What do you see?