A Response to “Stop Looking at People, Look to God”


Anonymous said:

i just want to say i think it’s ok to be skeptical and have questions and doubts but it’s bad when you start making the christian faith about people rather than Jesus. stop looking toward to people for faith and focus on Jesus and encourage that more as well

 

Hey there, thank you for your concern and for bringing this up. I hear what you are saying and I can agree, and I’m also not sure it’s the whole picture.

I heard those types of statements last year dozens of times: “Stop looking at people, look at God. Stop focusing on the church, focus on Jesus. Stop putting your hope in people” etc.

I understand this to be a meaningful truth. In fact, I can say this: People let me down so much last year that the only one I could really trust was God. It was only my tiny bit of faith that kept me alive, kept me from completely unraveling in my depression and anxiety. I doubted and questioned people. Did I doubt God? Sometimes. But absolutely not as much as I did the church. When nothing else was good, I trusted that God was the only one who is.

Most people of faith know that they ought to focus on the center of their faith rather than what people are doing. It is such a basic and obvious truth, that again, it was basically my only option.

Back to your statement. I want us to consider a few things.





1) It is impossible to practice our faith and to have a relationship with God without considering other people. The Greatest Commandment is to “Love God with all your heart/soul/mind/strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” These two ideas are inseparable. Certainly God takes precedence. But we are not meant to do faith alone. It is within community. And the people in that community (including me) are meant to be kept accountable.

Every prophet, preacher, priest, king, and person in the Bible grieved when God’s people were not acting as agents of healing, justice, and peace. That was often the point of their existence: to declare their heartbreak when they saw people harming one another.

Yes, it is true that we should not look at people to build our faith. We cannot rest our journeys in others. That would be idolatry. But no one ought to make faith harder for people. This sort of person in Scripture is called a “stumbling block, white-washed tomb, a brood of vipers,” all names for people who make it difficult to see God. We ought to be troubled when the church makes it hard to see God. No, of course no one asked for perfect. We asked for self-examination and being able to see with and through the eyes of others.

What you are suggesting, even if not purposefully, is that I practice a type of solo asceticism in which I can do a monk-type faith alone, turning a blind eye to others, without living in accountability and compassion with those in my community. You know, “Just don’t worry about it, God is in control” type thing. It is not only unwise to do this, but God would consider it a travesty to do so.


2) I work in the hospital, so imagine if a patient told me this:

“My spouse abuses me everyday.”

And imagine if my response is, “Don’t look at people, look at God.”

Patient: “I have cancer. I have debilitating chronic pain. I have an impossible medical debt. My brother was killed. This if my twelfth surgery.” These are all versions of things that patients tell me. Imagine that I reply, “Don’t look at your problems. Look to God.”

Now yes, this is a meaningful truth. This world, I believe, is not our final home. This theology overall can be a comfort. However, my timing and my lack of sensitivity in saying this all the time is not helpful. It is cold. It is not Christlike grace. It is a spiritualized cop-out. It is to gloss over and moralize someone’s pain. It is to skip the sorrow straight into joy. Not even Jesus did this. I don’t think this is what you’re doing on purpose. But inadvertently, all it does is shut down a person’s grief. Which is basically what you’re doing to me, even if you don’t mean to or don’t know it.


3) If indeed I should simply look to God and not to people—by that logic, should you not be looking at me and just look to God yourself? Should you not be messaging me or at all concerned with what I write? If your advice to me is not to look to people, then isn’t the very nature of your message contradictory to what you’re telling me? But instead you did read what I wrote. You are concerned. And I do appreciate that. I believe it’s just strange that you tell me not to look at others and only look to God, when in fact you did not do the same in my case.

I am attempting to say this graciously, because again, I don’t believe you’re deliberately doing any of this. Perhaps I did not even address your original concern. But my prayer is you would consider that simply saying “Look to God, not people” does not describe the entire picture of faith. The hard part of faith is not primarily looking to God. The hard part is other Christians. And that must not be so.

— J.S.


Photo from Unsplash

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