Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. (John 4:35)

The natural man sees the world through his own prejudices. The lenses he wears retain the color of the sinful nature, the priorities of the flesh, the limitations of his own human imagination, and they will interpret everything around them in terms of what brings them the most comfort.

When discussing the mission of Christ, the disciples were divided among themselves because they saw the matter through the wrong lenses. One would say to another, I don’t like your idea because it is too expensive. And another would say, I don’t like your idea because it is not my idea. Still another would say, I don’t like your idea because I don’t like those people. The lenses of the flesh are (a) the manifestations of the sinful nature and (b) the values of this fallen world system.

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal. 5:20-21)

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

Our great need is to see the world through the eyes of Christ, to see our resources through his eyes, our priorities through his eyes, the people around us through his eyes, and especially our own hearts through his eyes. When we dislike the ideas of another, when we distrust the motives of another, we should make sure that it is not a response simply from our own pride. We can be right in our words but wrong in our hearts, and ultimately it is what goes on in our hearts that will determine the words of our mouths.

Christ called the disciples to get their eyes out of their own circumstances, to throw away the lenses of the flesh, to stop seeing people through their own prejudices, and instead to look up. Instead of dwelling on what they could do or could not do in their own flesh, He called them to see the world through the eyes of grace.

For example, a parent may see the struggles of someone else’s child and have merely a general moral concern about the matter. But if it is his child who is struggling, the entire matter becomes urgent. Someone else’s suffering touches us slightly in our own flesh, and we may feel pity for them, but not real “compassion” – compassion comes from Latin compati, “to suffer with.” But once we put on the lenses of Christ’s love, now we have a new concern and motivation, and we are willing to suffer with them.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love” (Gal. 5:22).

We cannot get away from this principle, that until we love like Christ loves we cannot see the world properly. Someone will object, But CAN we love like Christ? We certainly cannot love like Christ in the flesh. But neither can we ever work our way up to loving like Christ except by the help of his Spirit. The way God puts love in our hearts is through his Spirit, and the only love he puts in us is his own.

We will find our own limitations of the flesh, because of the old sinful nature still within us. But let us never imagine that God would put anything in us other than his great and unconditional love. He doesn’t say that he will just put in a little human sympathy – we can do that on our own! He puts in us his love that is all compelling.

If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. (2 Corinthians 5:13-16)

The Christian is the one who has lifted up his eyes to see the world as Christ sees it. And though there are many layers of the old sinful nature’s legacy in our hearts to work through and to throw off, God will not turn back until we are transformed fully and made into the spiritual image of Christ (Rom.8:29).

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Let me add a few thoughts as a pastor to my fellow pastors:

A tension in our lives is the calling of God to serve in those places where he is moving, and to invest our hearts wherever he has called us. Christ gave the method to us of looking for the “son of peace” (Luke 10:1-12). If he is there, or if we find response to our ministry, we are to remain there serving. But if we do not find him, then we are to shake the dust off and move on elsewhere. But not all “sons of peace” are identical in their responses, for each of them are struggling with their own issues.

Yet the issue of compassion – “suffering with” – still impacts our own ministry. We cannot use the excuse that “those people” to whom we are called are hardhearted and uncaring, as long as the son of peace is there in some capacity. God’s call then in our lives is to love them as He loves them, and to lead them gently to be open to God pouring his love into their hearts. “Those people” must become “these people,” or even better, “my people.” God calls us to suffer with the people we pastor and seek to lead them to a greater understanding of and experience in his love.

It is hypocritical to preach their need to love others like Christ loves, if we are not loving them like Christ. We need to see our mission through his lens of love, if we will led them to see others through the same lens.

Miles Stanford wrote:

We often come across Christians who are bright and clever, and strong and righteous; in fact, a little too bright, and a little too clever-there seems so much of self in their strength, and their righteousness is severe and critical. They have everything to make them saints, except … crucifixion, which would mold them into a supernatural tenderness and limitless charity for others. But if they are of the real elect, God has a winepress prepared for them, through which they will some day pass, which will turn the metallic hardness of their nature into gentle love, which Christ always brings forth at the last of the feast. (Principles of Spiritual Growth, “Process of Discipleship,” by Miles Stanford)

May it not be said about us that we have everything about us to make us saints except crucifixion. It must be Christ and Christ only in us. The only battle he calls us to is his own. He does not call us to be engaged in fighting our own battles. He will fight those on his own terms.

But the spiritual pastor will always bring the divine perspective to the places he serves and that will create tension. (See Matthew 10:34) The mark of a godly pastor’s ministry is not necessarily that everything is peaceful and everyone is happy, but that they are becoming more and more like Christ. Anyone who seeks to do something good in this world will face opposition. Of course, only a fool would start fights and dissensions for no purpose whatsoever – “the man of God must not be quarrelsome” (2 Tim. 2:24).

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