For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ…Ephesians 1:15-20
So, all of you know about my families’ rescue dogs. As a family, we’ve been taking care of rescue dogs since I was little and it’s a mission and a ministry that I am raising my children into now. With all of our dogs, it’s amazing how you can really see the way the abuse they’ve experienced in the past effects their behavior now. Sometimes it’s a particular object they are afraid of and respond to, like men with hats, or dishtowels and brooms. But it’s also situations.
I love to roughhouse with my kids. My son, Philip, loves to slam his head into my stomach like a billy goat and my daughter, Em, attaches herself to my legs and wants me to walk her around. As a family we play like this often. Some of my rescue dogs get really upset when we roughhouse. My dog, Lincoln Log, who came from a very severe abusive situation gets between us, stands up on back legs and puts his paws on me to stop me, like he’s afraid I’m going to hurt the kids. Another one of our dogs, Toby, hides behind grandma and whines when we roughhouse. Of our 5 dogs, 4 of them have a very particular reaction to what they think is happening and how that connects to their past experiences. Then there’s Casey.
Casey is our oldest, a senior dog. We’ve had her since before I went to Seminary and we’re the only family she has ever known. We found her just as a tiny, tiny pup, not even weaned, in a Walmart shopping cart on a hot St. Louis summer day in August. She was Shi’s and my first rescue dog. She has never, ever known hurt, abuse, or intentional pain. Honestly, she’s lived a life of leisure and doggy heaven her whole life. Casey doesn’t get upset when we rough house. She’s never known violence or hurt and so when we roughhouse and play; she just hangs out with us and watches the fun.
When we look at how dogs react, we have to look behind the behavior to the reality of past experiences, hurts, and, really, the heart of the animal. When we look at how people react and live and do things, it’s the same thing; we have to look behind the behaviors and see the realities that are going on behind the scenes. These realities include memories, experiences, physical and emotional changes and illnesses, and spiritual realities, all interplaying together to form the present reality of a person.
we have to look behind the behavior to the reality of past experiences
That is the prayer that Pastor Paul has for each of us in the reading today, that the eyes of our hearts might be opened so that we can see the spiritual realities that are hidden behind the physical realities of our lives. By knowing those realities, we might fully know the hope we have in Jesus and the promise of His power in our lives, both now, and eternally.
This is true when you see someone who, according to earthly standards, is of no account. When we see them with the eyes of our hearts that Jesus has opened for us, we see that person’s eternal value and the love of God in Jesus given for them. But in the same way when we see someone who may have everything according to earthly standards, we see as well where their eternal and real value is, in the love of God in Jesus given for them.
This is true when we struggle with each other and it’s so easy to start to judge each other and our worth by behaviors or words that we are having a hard time with. We can feel like that person’s worth is somehow less because of their behaviors. Or how we should treat that person is less because of what we see. But for we Christians, Jesus has given to us another way of seeing–seeing with the heart and eyes of Jesus, that sight that sees a worth and value that doesn’t change no matter what that person has done.
This is also true when we struggle to see our own worth. When our hurts and past experiences beat us down, when the expectations of the world and the struggle with sin and guilt brings tears to our eyes and we can’t see ourselves any longer, Jesus gives us a different way of seeing. Jesus opens the eyes of our hearts to see ourselves as He sees us, with unconditional love and an eternal worth that no matter of sin or hurt can ever touch or change.
As Christians, we have been given a gift of seeing our world and each other, not with our physical eyes, but with our spiritual eyes. The eyes of our heart that Jesus has opened for us in faith.
My value and worth come from the love of God in Jesus.
When you use the eyes of your heart given to you in Jesus, when you see each other, you will see how much they are loved and worth no matter what and you will learn to care for each other according to that vision. When you see yourself, you will learn to see beyond the guilt and the hurt and see how much you are loved and worth no matter what and you will learn to care for and value yourself according to that vision.
Trust Jesus–He is the one who gives you this vision and tells you what is real and what matters and what doesn’t. Take Jesus at His Word and see your worth, see the worth of each other, and treat each other and yourself according to how Jesus sees you.
If, someday, I might stop you and ask, where does your value and worth come from?
I want you to be able to say and know your answer to that question, without hesitation.
My value and worth come from the love of God in Jesus.