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By W. TERENCE ERBELE
Behind the counter in the Ketchikan post office is a sign: “Ask to See !!!”
Every time I look at it, I wonder for whom this sign is intended. If I cannot see, how am I going to read it to know that I should ask to see? If I can read it, I obviously can see so why do I want to ask to see?
As we endure the current spate of protests and counter-protests, the deluge of vitriolic twitters, the torrent of acerbic posts and reposts on Facebook along with angry letters to the editor, perhaps more of us should ask to see. It seems we focus more on a quick undercutting comeback than to go through the effort of civil discourse or courteous exchange of ideas. We are easily threatened if someone disagrees and do not want to spend the time seeking an understanding of how the other person came to a differing conclusion. Too often the attitude conveyed is that I am right therefore you are wrong and only worthy of my disdain. It is paradoxical that some of the most intolerant people are those claiming to advocate tolerance.
Though the post office is not a common forum for philosophical — let alone theological — reflection, they got it right with that sign. In our toxic swirl of rancor what better advice can be given than to ask to see — to see what we are doing to ourselves and to see what God wants us to do about it.
The Bible is replete with stories of people who had their eyes opened. Balaam finally could see the angel obstructing the path after the donkey talked to him. Elisha prayed that the eyes of his assistant be opened to see the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire protecting them. Nathan helped David to see. Even more importantly than having his physical eyesight returned after Ananias prayed for him, Saul could see the grace of Christ. Stephen’s eyes were opened and he could see the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
Jesus was forthright about those who failed to ask to see, calling them blind guides of the blind. John 9 tells about Jesus healing the man born blind and the delightful conversations that ensued. It ends with Jesus declaring, “For judgment I came into the world that those who do not see may see and those who do see may become blind.” ““If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”
The book of Judges relates the anarchy and sin that prevailed in Israel and concludes with the despair: “Every man did what was right in his own sight. Proverbs 3:5-7 admonishes to not be wise in our own eyes and not lean on our own understanding.
There is a better way. God is ready to show it. Just ask to see.
Many hymns include phrases that are really prayers requesting sight: “Open my eyes that I may see,” “Be thou my vision,” “O Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight.”
Other hymns celebrate the sight God gives: “Once I was blind but now I can see, the light of the world is Jesus,” “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,” “Ye blind, behold your Savior come and leap, ye lame for joy.”
Ask to see!!!
The Rev. W. Terence Erbele is a pastor of the United Methodist Church.
Perspectives is a regular column sponsored and written by members of the Ketchikan Ministerial Association.