On Turning a Blind Eye

In London's Trafalgar Square, atop a 160-ft column, is a statue of England's most famous hero, Admiral Horatio Nelson (1758-1805). He is considered the "Father of the Royal Navy," and his feats of bravery saved his country from a challenge even more serious than a possible Nazi invasion during World War II. In one battle he lost his right arm, while in another he lost his right eye.
In a fierce sea battle at Copenhagen to defeat Napoleon, he was ordered by his superiors, who feared mounting casualties, to "discontinue action." Signals were used to convey that message of retreat, of course, but he disregarded it. He put his telescope to his blind eye and joked, "I really do not see the signal." He was insubordinate, pressing on--but his actions won the victory and saved the day.

The phrase, "to turn a blind eye,” has come to refer to those times when we knowingly overlook and allow things to which we should have been paying close attention.

Sometimes that is the good and right thing to do.
  • "Keep your eyes wide open before marriage," said Benjamin Franklin. "And half-shut afterwards." Choose your spouse wisely and carefully and don't get swept off of your feet too quickly. But after the "I Do's" are spoken, accept his idiosyncrasies and inevitable flaws and go on.
  • Do not keep records of other people's sins and sit in judgement over them (Matthew 7:1-5). There is a time to rebuke and correct others—part of our responsibility to one another in the church (2 Timothy 4:2)—but only after first dealing with our own failings.
  • Microscopically investigating everyone's life, just looking for fault, is not helpful or holy (Galatians 6:1-5). It could discourage the other person when what she most needs is gentle help with the burden she is carrying.

But there are other times when we must not turn a blind eye to what is clearly before us.
  • Again, when it is the sin in our own life.
       "Avoid every kind of evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:22). That requires us to keep both eyes open to anger that could lead to murder, and lust that can result in actual physical adultery (Matthew 5:21-30).
       "If I have cherished sin in my heart, the LORD would not have listened" (Psalm 66:18). That means we confess and forsake sin as soon as it crops up, keeping very short lists of our transgressions.
  • When there are hurting, needy people all around us. People made in God's image and for whom Jesus died. In judgement we will not be able to say that we did not know about them--it's in the newspaper and on television news every day (Matthew 25:31-46).
  • "Injustice anywhere," Martin Luther King wrote, "is a threat to justice everywhere."
And certainly, we must not close our eyes to the God-given responsibility to share Christ with the nations. As I said in my sermon on Sunday the Great Commission is in danger of becoming the "great omission" when we have the opportunity to go but remain instead in our comfort zone. When we have the resources to send missionaries but fail to give them.

This coming Sunday is our annual Parade of Flags and March for Missions. Row by row and with a bounce in our step, our people come forward with their gifts for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.

Be in prayer about this between now and Sunday. Talk about it as a family. Then do what you can for this great effort.

Look at what you have in your hand. Do not close your eyes to the needs all around you and how you can make a huge difference through your giving.
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