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Seeing People

Lately I’ve been reading the book Anthro-Vision by Gillian Tett. The book is about as exciting as its title. While it’s not one of my must-recommend reads, it does draw attention to the role of anthropology in modern life. Many large corporations, especially technical firms, are using anthropologists to help guide strategic planning and decision making.

When I hear the word anthropology, I tend to think of those PhDs who study exotic peoples, take lots of pictures and write boring books about customs and rituals that are completely irrelevant to me. Yet, Tett points out the necessity of seeing people in their normal environment. According to her, anthro-vision is about making the unfamiliar familiar and the familiar unfamiliar. It’s all about seeing people. In considering that, I think about what a difference seeing people makes.

Acts 3 tells the story of Peter and John healing a lame beggar who sat at the temple gates. The passage informs us that the man had been lame “from his mother’s womb” and that he was carried to his spot at the Gate Beautiful daily. I wonder, how many times Peter and John had not seen this man? On His three yearly trips to Jerusalem, had Jesus not seen this man?

As I drive around town, and especially when I travel, there are beggars constantly asking for money. At times I believe that if I were to give to each beggar, I’d soon become one of them. There are times I intentionally do not see them.

Peter and John made the difference in the life of a man by seeing him. According to Acts 3:4, “Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, ‘Look at us.’” Making a difference begins with seeing. For once Peter and John didn’t see a beggar. The say the man. For once this individual was not just visual clutter in their line of sight, but rather a child of God whom they could bless.

Who are we seeing? Who are we impacting? We can make a difference when we see people. When we see more than objects, but rather people with real lives, real issues, real hopes and real pain, we can make move beyond looking and begin helping. If we would stop bypassing each other and actually see each other, our lives would be enriched and the power of God would be manifest among us. I believe church gatherings are among the safest and easiest places to see people. There is the spirit of God in those who worship Him. Yet, weekly we go home without seeing or knowing each other.

There’s a second and similar healing recorded in the book of Acts. “Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, ‘Stand upright on your feet.’ And he sprang up and began walking” (Acts 14:8-10). What could we do if we would see people? Let’s try it, and see.

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