How God Sees Us

John 8:51-59

This Gospel illustrates for us the contrast between how we view ourselves and the way God sees us. 


Throughout the Gospel of John, we see a number of these dialogues between Jesus and others where Jesus and the others were not always on the same wave length- Jesus would speak of things from a spiritual perspective, and the people would hear them in a political or earthly perspective.  Yesterday, Jesus was talking about slavery in the context of sin, whereas the people could only receive that message about slavery in the context of being enslaved to another person.


Today we see the Jews, from their earthly perspective, not able to comprehend, not able to get their minds around, the nature of Jesus. They ask him, "Who do you make yourself out to be?" 


These dialogues remind me of the story cited by Bishop Robert Barron of philosopher, William James, who used as a metaphorical illustration, his dog walking into his (James’) study to greet him at the end of his work day. James used this story to help illustrate the contrast between our limited amount of understanding and God's all knowing presence. 


James said that his dog could look around and see everything in the study: the books on the shelves, the papers on the desk, and the globe in the corner.  It occurred to him that, though the dog was able to see everything, he understood almost none of it.  And if his master tried to explain it to him- the books are collections of pages on which are symbols of words that in turn signify ideas, and the globe is a symbolic representation of the planet that we live on, well, the dog would have looked at him with perfect incomprehension.  We that own dogs, know that look. 


It occurred to James that we’re similarly incapable of understanding the great intelligence that orders and governs our universe. Though we see everything, we understand little of it.  And given the limited capacity of our minds, God couldn't even in principle, begin to explain it to us. 


Jesus says in response to the question about who he is, “If I glorify myself, my glory is worth nothing.”  It is God the Father who glorifies Jesus, and it is God the Father who glorifies us. Because of our lack of complete understanding, just like that dog in the study, we’ll never be able to see ourselves the way God sees us, in the context of his creation. We are part of his beautiful mosaic that only he understands.   


So, for each of us, it’s not about what we say about ourselves or even what others say of us. It’s only God the Father’s view that counts.


As has been said, God is an artist and his canvas is all of space and all of time.  By contrast, if we were asked to answer the question, "who do we make ourselves out to be" by creating a self-portrait (as often children are asked to do in school), our finished product would likely not be anything close to an exact depiction or image of ourselves.  In fact, my grade school self-portraits that I created always had me depicted with my hands behind my back because I couldn’t draw hands too well.


Even if we have great artistic talents, we lack the capacity to anything close to a meaningful self-assessment. Our lack of ability in this regard is symbolic of our own inability to accurately answer the question that was posed to Jesus, "Who do you make yourself out to be?"


Throughout life we struggle with our ability to deal with our self image.  Think about teenagers. How many of them look in the mirror and see what no one else sees: ugliness, shortness, fatness?  Too many, are disappointed at what they see.  But they do not see what is truly there– what is really real. They suffer from shortsightedness and tunnel vision at that age.  As adults, it may be even worse because we carry with us painful rejections from the past and we seem all too reliant on others to tell us how good we look or how wonderful we are.  


The tragedy is this: The last person we ever seek an opinion from is the one we should have asked from the very beginning, the one who is from the very beginning. The one whose image and likeness we reflect. The question should always be, “How does God see me?”


If that's our question, we will find comfort in his answer.  In Ephesians, we heard just a couple of Sundays ago: "We are God's handiwork".  We are his masterpiece.  Jesus says, “It is my Father who glorifies me!” We can attempt to draw our own portrait, but it will always come up short.  We can look at ourselves in the mirror, but it will never reflect the soul, will and heart of the unique person that God created!  We can seek the affirmation of others by what we wear or by what we succeed in doing, but we will never fully comprehend the mystery of who we are until we allow the great I AM to reflect his image and likeness upon us.


And so we pray, dear Lord, help us see ourselves as you see us, as your beloved handiwork, created in your image to do your work. Let us never lose sight of God’s favor at work in our lives. And let us walk with confidence today, knowing that we are valued, glorified and loved!


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