Monday, January 6, 2020


One of the first persons we see the apostles encounter after Jesus's ascension is a disabled beggar in Acts 3. Peter and John were heading into the Temple courtyard for prayer, and this lame man was lying there, as he did every day, begging from the faithful for a little bit to just get by. To just make it another day.

Acts tells us he didn't even look up. He just sat there, staring at the ground, asking others for a little mercy. He doesn't even know who he was asking.

Now, there's nothing to say that if he had looked up, he would have known who these two men were. We should not imagine that had he taken just a moment and peeked, he would have said, "Oh! It's Peter and John! Hallelujah!" He probably didn't know who Peter and John were. He may have never seen them with Jesus. He may have never even seen Jesus.

All he had seen was the dirt in the courtyard and the occasional piece of debris that floated past in the wind. The sandals of the faithful coming in and out, in and out, in and out. He heard the sounds of their prayers, but it's safe to say that likely not one of those prayers was ever uttered for him. He never heard his name, if anyone even knew it, raised in petition to God, even though every single one of those persons had to walk past him to get into the courtyard. Even though every single one of them knew, though they pretended otherwise, that he was there.

There's something you have to understand. By the understanding of the day, this was not just a disabled man. He was not simply lame. He wasn't a guy who had an unfortunate accident or some unpredictable birth defect. He was not someone you would naturally feel compassion for. Because by the understanding of the day, physical affliction like this was the direct result of sin. So if you were one of the faithful who walked by him every day on your way into the courtyard, what you saw - first and foremost - was a sinner.

By the time Peter and John come upon him, that's probably all that he knows of himself, too.

It's why he can't look up. It's why he can't raise his head to look at anything other than the faithfuls' shoes. It's why his eyes are locked to the ground. This is a lame man, yes, but he is a man full of shame. A convicted, known, recognized sinner whose failure in life has become his defining mark. It's all anyone knows of him, all anyone sees. It's all he sees of himself.

And that's why this encounter with Peter and John is so important, is so powerful. Because the first thing the apostles did was to look at this man, the same way that Jesus had looked at every afflicted sinner in the Gospels. And the second thing they did was to ask him to look at them.

Eye contact. Human dignity. Restoration. Relationship. That's the essence of what's happening here. Before they even think about giving this man the ability to walk again, they give him the right to exist again. To be a human being. To have a face, a name, a story. To have a sense of self, in connection with a sense of others.

It changes everything.

It still does.

You are going to encounter a lot of persons in your life, even today. Some of them are so burdened by the shame of their brokenness that they won't even be able to look up. It would be easy to see them as a nuisance, as a bother. As something to step over or walk around on your way into your regular, normal, "faithful" life. But the easy thing is rarely the good thing.

So try seeing them not as a bother, but as a brother. Not as a nuisance, but as a neighbor. Not as a bump in the road, but as a broken spirit on the journey. Take the time to look at them, actually look at them, and invite them to look up. Tell them you want to see their face. Invite them to look at yours.

No, you can't solve all the problems of the world. But you can give someone his dignity back. You can give him a sense of self that he's long lost.

All by taking a moment, just one moment, to stop and say, "Hey. I see you. Look at me."

"I got you." 

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