If you could see the world through your enemy’s eyes, you would see God. You would see God in greater detail than you have ever known him, if you could see the world through your enemy’s eyes.
As I was writing my last post, I was searching for a certain word that I couldn’t come up with on my own. I could describe the word, loosely define the word, but I could not speak the word. So I asked for help. I described the word to my wife, and she offered a few possibilities for the word I was searching for. And the moment she spoke the right word, I recognized it immediately.
Grasping for a concept that we are unable to name is something like prevenient grace.
The people around us – despite any cultural trends away from Christianity and religion – have the revelation of God at the tip of minds. They’re grasping for it, but unable to name it. They perceive something of God – something powerful and undeniable – but they do not recognize it as God, or do not have the knowledge of God to recognize that he is who they are searching for. It is a spark that resides deep each of us, which points to something that is both within us and beyond us.
It is prevenient grace.
Prevenient grace is a term used to describe the way God works to reveal himself. We worship a God who is not only powerfully at work in all of creation, but who powerfully reveals himself in and through all of creation. He reveals himself through those who know him and those who do not know him. It is found in all truth that points to him, however incomplete that truth may be.
Prevenient grace is the phrase we use to describe the work of God in our lives prior to our conversion, and even prior to our awareness of Him. It is the recognition that if it were not for the love of God and His desire to be known by us, we would be incapable of knowing him. Prevenient grace is the tug on the soul of the unbeliever, gently inviting us to experience a greater truth than we currently know. It is the subtle announcement in our lives that there is something beyond us – a greater love than we have known or can describe – which invites us and draws us in.
Which is why if we could see the world through our enemy’s eyes, we would see God.
In our part of the world (United States), we are increasingly polarized by politics. The left is moving further left, and the right is moving further right. We have divided ourselves into “sides,” and we make enemies of those who are on the other side. If you’re not with us, you’re against us. If you’re not for us, you must be for them. There is no middle ground. There is no compromise. There is black and white; good and evil. Of course, what constitutes good and what constitutes evil depends on where you stand, doesn’t it? If you look through the world through red-tinted glasses, everything blue is evil. If you look through blue tinted glasses, everything red is evil.
But what if God is not only at work in us… but also at work in them? What if he is not only revealing himself to our side, but he is also at work revealing himself to their side? What if God wants to save us all? (And what if it is from “us and them” that he wants to save us from?).
Let’s get uncomfortably specific.
Those who see the world through red-tinted glasses often share a concern for the unborn child. Those who see the world through blue-tinted glasses often share a concern for the immigrant and death row inmate. Both sides devalue the perspective of the other side. But what if the concerns of both sides are ways that God is revealing himself?
What if the spark of life in the unborn child is the same spark of life that others see in the immigrant and inmate? And what if that spark of life is a revelation of God to the people who see it, even if they can’t name him in it?
What if any time we selflessly advocate for people who do not directly affect our lives is the result of God revealing himself to us? What if, in our broken but selfless efforts to care for others, we are responding to divine revelation? And the thing in others that we value and give energy toward – even if we don’t recognize it, can’t articulate it, or even deny it – is very image of God, obscured by human brokenness?
What if God is revealing himself to our enemies in ways that we cannot see, and revealing himself to us in ways that our enemies cannot see, and our fears, biases, and suspicions prevent us from seeing an even fuller revelation of God than we have known?
If you could see the world through your enemy’s eyes, you would see more of God than you have ever known.
Because God is at work, making himself known to all of creation. This is prevenient grace. And if you want to know God… love your enemies.
With that in mind, two important notes. First, our best efforts to achieve God’s purposes, absent from God, will fail. That’s why all of our political solutions, however well-intentioned, fall short.
And second, not all things that reveal God are of God. Human greed reveals God to us by nature of its contrast to him. We look at the consequences of greed and say, “there must be a better way.” And in the brief moments we consider the alternative; generosity, we glimpse God.
Which makes conversion that moment when we recognize and embrace the reality that the God who is revealing himself to us in creative and complex ways, some of which we grasp but many of which we fail to grasp, and commit ourselves to pursuing this God who we are coming to know.
And salvation, which we’ll explore in the next post, is the experiential knowledge and transformation that accompanies the pursuit.