Forget the Clue. We Just Need a Little Perspective

When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread.  Jesus said to them, “Watch out, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”  They said to one another, “It is because we have brought no bread.”  And becoming aware of it, Jesus said, “You of little faith, why are you talking about having no bread?  Do you still not perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?  Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?  How could you fail to perceive that I was not speaking about bread? Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!”  Then they understood that he had not told them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 16:5-12 NRS).

Despite outward criticisms, Christians are very caring and thoughtful people.  The overwhelming majority of people in the Church that I have ever encountered want to be helpful to those in need.  They want to make a positive difference for this world and in the lives of others.  Do we make mistakes, miss the mark?  Sure.  Sometimes we lose sight of the big picture.  Sometimes we get so caught up in the idea of helping that we fail to see it.  Christians have a notorious history of missing the big picture, but it is not from our lack of desire.  I think it stems from a failure to take in the world with a perspective that is all encompassing.  Several months ago, I received some announcement materials about raising money and supplies to send soap to Sudan.  Sudan has been locked in a bloody civil war as the southern region fought for its independence from the north.  In addition to political violence, there have been ethnic and religious conflicts that have erupted into violent clashes.  There are problems of famine, violence against women and children, and a lack of safe water.  With all of this well documented in world news, we send soap.  There seems to be a fundamental disconnect with the problems of the people of Sudan and this proposed response. 

I took the poster that had come to my office and stared at it for several minutes.  I tried to wrap my head around this idea that we, as the Body of Christ, we being called by God to share God’s love and grace with Sudan via soap.  Clearly someone’s heart was in the right place.  I can see that someone had good intentions about, according to the materials, “bringing hope” to these people who have been suffering for over sixty years through warfare and violence, as well as the atrocities that come in their wake.  Might we have better communicated hope and love through meeting basic, fundamental needs like food, clothing, or medical supplies?  Even better, potable water.  Would I get it, this message of hope, if my child is clean, but thirsty and hungry, naked and sick?  It makes me think of Alicia Silverstone’s character, Cher, in the movie Clueless (1995).  Cher, a rich teen who wants for nothing, has this eye opening epiphany and wants to make a difference and use her abilities and resources to do good.  She begins to go through her numerous possessions to find things to donate to those who have been affected by the recent Pismo Beach Disaster.  As she struggles to move her skis into the donation pile, her father asks what she’s doing.  Cher replies that she is captain of the Pismo Beach Disaster Relief.  Her father tells her that they don’t need her skis.  “Daddy, some people lost all their belongings, don’t you think that includes athletic equipment?” she replies.  Well, yes, Cher has a point, but when you don’t have a place to lay your head and no idea where your next meal is coming from, you’re not apt to plan a vacation.  For all her good hearted intention, she’s failed to consider this.  Unfortunately, this is a pattern of behavior for us.

(Image courtesy of

Missionaries, wanting to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, travel to foreign lands and meet people who they end up offending by telling them their native religion is pagan and evil, but, here drink the blood of our God and eat his flesh.  The whole history of political Christianity that made people convert through the fear and terror of what boiled down to convert now or die.  In our rush to good things, we plunge head first into quagmires and fractured relationships.  I wish we could take a moment to pause and look for the big picture, the Christ perspective.  You cannot get people to focus on spiritual matters when they are struggling to survive and thrive in the most basic areas of life.  People seem more capable of hearing me when the rumbling of their empty stomachs doesn’t drown out my voice.

When I read the scripture passage of Matthew 16, I am reminded that even the disciples had those times when they didn’t have a clue.  They were good intentioned and wanted to please Jesus, but they just lacked his perspective.  In Christ’s own words, they failed to perceive (16:11).  Part of the perspective Christ gives to his followers is that there is so much at stake, and people are looking at us.  They see how we act, how we speak, and what we are really doing.  They don’t know what we intend, and how we has hoped this would work.  They only know the reality of what we did do and say, and how we made them feel.  Jesus spent his time feeding people, multitudes.  He healed them so their inner demons did not prevent them from living as God calls us to be.  He understood that we have real, practical needs that have to be met, and once they were, he began to speak, to preach, and to teach. 

While I can find so many voices that claim that Christianity is archaic and needs to get a clue, I sincerely believe that we really just need a little perspective.  When we take the time to read our scripture, earnestly pray for discernment, and be in community with others, how can we not discover what God would have us do?  In instructing us and guiding us, the Holy Spirit works to be a partner in our human efforts.  We need God’s help so that our sight isn’t just tunnel vision.  We need a bigger perspective and God is happy to provide that.  Jesus did it for his disciples then, and he’ll do it for us now.

Lord Jesus Christ,
We want so desperately to do good things in your name.
We want to help others and reveal God’s love.
We desire to be part of the outpouring of God’s grace to others.
Reveal to us your vision of this world.
You are able to see more than we ever could.
You can look right to the heart of the matter where we cannot.
Help us to see what you would have us do,
So that our energies and actions will not work against us.
Remind us to pause and be in prayer,
That we might discern what we are to do to accomplish your will.
We know that we can trust you to lead us, to guide us.
May we be a tangible reminder of you for others.
Let us feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit with the forgotten.
May all we do glorify you.


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