Admittedly, there are some pitfalls to avoid when “doing the word.” For example, it’s important that we don’t think we are somehow earning our salvation or keeping it by doing works. We can also wrongly attribute our spiritual growth to our work instead of to God’s grace at work within us. Yet another danger is the “doing of the word” without properly hearing and understanding God’s word first. Churches that focus on doing good works in the community sometimes owe more to society’s definition of good than to scripture’s own.
But even with those dangers I still hold firm to what I wrote last week, that the key to discipleship is the combination of “hearing and doing the word.” But what can keep us from the traps I mentioned above?
As the restricted church leaders (from our training) were getting ready to go out on the streets of Seoul, South Korea to “do the word,” Pastor Foley taught that the prerequisite to doing good is seeing others around you with the eyes of Christ.
By default we often see others with our own sinful eyes. We see others as obstacles to what we want to do. We see others as objects of our own lust. We see others as stepping stones to our own success or self-image improvement. A lot of the time we don’t see others at all, even when we bump into them.
But what if we began to see others with the eyes of Christ?
What would you see when you looked into the eyes of the homeless man that begs on your street corner? What would you see when you went through the grocery line of the frazzled cashier? What would you see when talking to a demanding teacher from your child’s school? What would you see if you looked at your enemy through these eyes?
Our challenge is that we must be willing to see that God is present with each and every person that we meet. And each situation we encounter is calling to mirror God’s goodness to that person.
It was fascinating to hear the testimonies of how these restricted church leaders saw others with the eyes of Christ when they hit the streets. For example, one church leader came across an elderly Korean lady unloading a truck full of heavy cement bricks. This leader initially said the woman looked more like an opportunity to fulfill the homework assignment we had given to him, but when he helped her unload the bricks he encountered her as a real person with needs, hopes, and challenges. He realized that people are not means to the end of doing good but are ends in themselves. That’s how God sees people, too.
Other conference participants, shared their bread (literally) with a homeless man that they had probably walked by several times on the way to and from the week’s training events. They had some bread that they had bought from a bakery earlier that morning and they ate together while also sharing about Christ. The homeless person ceased being a fixture and became a meal companion.
We won’t really know if any of these actions caused change for the elderly lady or the homeless man, but we do know the change that God began to do in these church leaders themselves. One participant repented before the Lord for not noticing the need for God’s goodness all around her before. Another participant realized that “seeing others through Christ’s eyes” was something he needed to do on a daily basis and not just during a conference. And finally, one participant said that she experienced the joy of the Lord more fully through seeing others with the eyes of Christ.
Ultimately, when we “do the word,” we don’t do it like a homework assignment or a chore or as an act of self- (or other-) improvement. We do it because through Christ God has given us new eyes to see the world and we are simply being true to that new vision.