Where do you expect God to show up? In a church? In a synagogue? In nature? Out on a boat? On a golf course? In a quiet moment of self-reflection? I listened to a podcast while out walking the other morning and it was titled,“Seeing God in the Eyes of Your Enemy.” That caught my attention. How could I see God there, of all places? Really? God in the eyes of my enemy?
The topic is timely. In an extremely acrimonious political climate that is filled with non-stop 30-second barrages of demonizing the opposing candidate, why would we even think of seeing God in the eyes of the enemy? After all, we should fear that the whole world will come crashing down if the other candidate wins the election. We should panic. We should get our fighting gloves on. We should worry and be alarmed. This the most important election in all of history. This is the most important decision you will ever make in your whole life. So we are told.
I admit it. I deeply resist any fear-based sales pitch. I haven’t spent my life making decisions while being driven by fear. And, I’m not about to start now. Simply put, that’s not what got me to where I am now. But that’s another long story.
Martin Buber, an early 20thcentury Jewish theologian, has contributed a huge amount of insight on the topic of seeing God in the eyes of our enemy. I don’t believe he actually used that specific term. But, some of Buber’s most famous writings discuss the contrast between using an “I-It” or an “I-Thou” approach to our relationships. The I-It view of our relationships is similar to the “cancel culture” I wrote about recently. We label others. And, we “cancel” them out of our lives if we disagree with their view-points. They just are dispensable and disposable “its” in our life. They are less than human. Undeserving of our time or attention.
Or, Buber’s “I-Thou” explanation of what creates healthy human relationships, is based on the fact that you choose to look into the other person’s eyes and realize they are unrepeatable. Totally unique. A sacred creation in God’s own image. Real. Living. And authentic people. Maybe they do show some brokenness, as we all do. But even if they are badly broken, they still are valuable. They hold deep within them–even if it’s buried in a mess–a purpose and the image of God. What might change in our political landscape, our neighbor to neighbor relationships, our family relationships if we could actually see God in the eyes of those we disagree with or those who have wronged us? That’s not an easy assignment but it would change things. It would change us. It might change them.
The podcast speaker, Peter Scazzero, challenged me to ask myself three penetrating questions to help me see God in the eyes of my enemies. Maybe they will help you too.
1. Am I Fully Present or Distracted? I need to hear that. It’s so easy for me to get distracted by everything in my peripheral or by the phone in my hand or pocket. Am I fully present when my wife, my kids, my grandkids, friends or a spiritual seeker talks to me?
2. Am I Loving or Judging? I admit it. I’m a recovering judgaholic. I can quickly look at a person’s age, car, bumper sticker, dress, title, education, political affiliation, social media posts or whatever and make assessments and assumptions about their life. I’ve been in recovery for years. I’m not yet totally judge-free sober. But my God’s grace, I’m making progress.
3. Am I Open or Closed to Being Changed? I think I’m a pretty open-minded kind of guy until I get super honest with my self-evaluation. While I am fairly skilled at listening to the opinions and beliefs of others before I ever start to speak my mind, I don’t easily change my mind. I’m a pretty focused guy. I know what I believe and where I want to go. But that causes me to be quietly formulating my rebuttal instead of carefully listening to the words and the heart of the other person. So, I really need to be asking this question of myself in every conversation.
How are you doing with the above three questions? Start with the people closest to you. Ask them. Invite fearless feedback. They will probably help you to see which of the three you need to work on. Chances are, you will start seeing God in their eyes. Honest conversation will bring you closer to them and Him. And then for those who vote differently than you, usually disagree with you and you have trouble tolerating. Start by asking these questions internally. You will grow. And you just may see God in their eyes… maybe even in the eyes of a new friend.
QUESTION: Which of these three is easiest for you? Which one is hardest? I’d love to hear from you in the Comment section below.