A Better Illustration of Spiritual Blindness

Every pastor, every biblical counselor has talked to a counselee that really couldn’t see his sin very accurately. You’ve patiently showed him how he’s hurting his marriage, how he’s not fulfilling his biblical role, how he’s not loving his wife as Christ loves the church, and he’s not seen it. He refuses your counsel. He doesn’t own his sin. He rejects blame. It’s difficult to communicate the biblical concept of spiritual blindness—that we don’t see our sin very clearly. Sin deceives us to its existence (Heb 3:12-13), and we want to be deceived about it.

In this life we will never have 20/20 vision about our own sin. The Laodicean church shows us that.

Revelation 3:17 (ESV) For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

Did the Laodicean church think that everything was okay while in fact, everything was radically wrong? Did they really believe that things were A-Ok when they were really wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked? Yes they did. So do you. And so do I (Cf. Mt 7:3-5).

So what illustration can a biblical counselor use to communicate our tendency to be spiritually blind? Most use physical blindness which works, but has limitations. One, a physically blind person knows they are physically blind; a spiritually blind person often does not know they are spiritually blind. Two, physical blindness as an illustration is all or nothing, but there can be degrees of spiritual blindness.

Protanopia or deuteranopia are types of color blindness. With protanopia you cannot see the color red (1% of men) and with deuteranopia you cannot see the color green (5% of men). Most commonly a colorblind person struggles to differentiate between reds and greens. What is life like for the colorblind? They go through life without seeing all the colors we see. Most times it doesn’t affect them—at least in ways they are aware. They look at their child’s crayon drawing, and they don’t know what they’re missing. They notice the cut and shape of a new dress on their teen daughter, but they don’t know that the colors are fantastic.

We had a student in our church who didn’t know he was colorblind until he took his vision test for his driver’s license. You need to be able to distinguish between reds and greens if you’re going to have a license—stoplights demand it! His family enjoyed camping and in looking back, it made sense that he wasn’t ever impressed with the sunsets while sitting around a campfire. His life worked fine—as far as he could tell—while being colorblind.

YouTube videos of colorblind people seeing colors for the first time are somewhat common now.[1] http://enchroma.com/ A company called EnChroma worked with Valspar Paints to develop glasses that allow colorblind people to see colors. It’s amazing. In one I saw a guy look at a sunset and say, “So is that what you guys see every day?” He’d never understood the glory of a sunset.

Colorblindness is a better analogy to our spiritual lives than total blindness. Think about what it means to be colorblind. You can function fine. You might know that you’re colorblind, but you really don’t know what that means. You don’t know what you’re missing because you’ve never seen it. You look at a flower garden and you can see the different shapes and some differences in hues, but you have no idea that you’re missing the eye-popping colors in the garden. You’re missing something that is obvious to everyone around you. That’s spiritual blindness. You and I can function in life, and because we can, we don’t notice our blindness to our true condition. We go through life ignorant of the depths and extent of our sin. We cannot see it.

Sin is blinding. By nature it fools us, and when we’ve sinned for a long time in the same way, we become less and less able to see it in all its ugliness. I’ve rarely, maybe never, talked to a person whose tongue was destroying his family who thought his problem was as severe as it really was. That’s the human condition. Sin is blinding.

Colorblindness is a better illustration of spiritual blindness than actual blindness. It illustrates the blindness-to-our-blindness characteristic of spiritual blindness. It illustrates that we can function with our spiritual blindness. We’re not incapable of making our way through life. And that fact keeps us from seeing our sin very well.[2]The picture at the top is a test for colorblindness.


1 http://enchroma.com/
2 The picture at the top is a test for colorblindness.

Massaging the Message: Believing the Gospel Needs Our Help

Have you ever been to a tent revival? When I was a child our church joined with other city churches to hold a tent revival for a week. Maybe it surprises you, but some churches were still holding tent meetings in the late ‘70s. They actually set up a tent in the parking lot of Lambeau Field where the Packers played, which for residents of Green Bay was about the best location ever. Since it was a tent, we got to use the bathrooms inside the stadium which I thought was really cool. An elderly evangelist and his college team came in to conduct the nightly services, and he led come-forward invitations at the end of each service. This means that when he finished preaching the gospel, the audience would sing several verses of a Christian song (a favorite was Just As I Am) and people were invited to come to the front and get saved. Lots of people have trusted Christ that way.

I found out later that the evangelist had some directions for the churches to make the invitations more effective. Each church was supposed to assign certain people to come forward on each line of the first few verses of the invitation song. So as the audience starts singing, a few adults were supposed to leave their chairs and come forward. Then some more on the second line, and more on the third, and so on. They weren’t coming forward to talk to those that might be genuinely repentant and need some help understanding the gospel. No, they were essentially pretending that they were genuinely convicted by the Spirit. It was supposed to make it easier for an unbeliever to make the decision to come forward and talk to the evangelist and be directed to someone that could help them walk through the gospel.

I don’t know what you think about that. The deceit bothers me—pretending to be moved by the Spirit when you are not. I think it’s a gimmick. I think it’s manipulative. And I don’t think it’s how Paul presented the gospel.

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Cor 2:1-5, ESV)

Paul didn’t shape his message to appeal to the Corinthian culture. He didn’t try to manipulate his audience into trusting Christ. In fact, he was doing it all wrong. He didn’t come to Corinth and share the Gospel in any ways that took away the shame of the message, the unimpressiveness of the called, or the foolishness of his own presentation.

This should be encouraging. Paul didn’t do anything “right” and yet the Gospel took root in people’s lives, and a church was planted in Corinth. The success of the Gospel doesn’t depend upon you and your cleverness.

Sometimes we think that if we only had the exact right word at the right time, our neighbor, friend, or family member would trust Christ. Not so. Everything was against the Gospel in Corinth and God still planted His church. Paul didn’t have a great delivery—nobody was coming to hear his amazing oratory—and people still trusted Christ. Paul didn’t have a powerful personality—nobody was impressed by his charisma—and people still trusted Christ.

We share the Gospel and trust God for the results. We do have to share the Gospel, but the success of it doesn’t depend upon your words or your personality. Both Paul’s delivery and his message weren’t persuasive by the world’s standards. That’s encouraging. Frankly, if the success of my witness depends upon me, I will feel a lot of pressure. I know I’m an inadequate witness, and I will get discouraged from even sharing the gospel. But I just need to be faithful in sharing. God will do the work.

From the world’s perspective they had a terrible message, embarrassing converts, and a poor salesman in Paul. Yet, the gospel changed lives. The Spirit’s power is the only explanation.

If God can use Paul’s feeble presentation to save some in Corinth, he can use your awkward presentation with your neighbor. So trust God and take courage. You and I can do this. By God’s grace we can share the crucified Christ, and by the Spirit’s power we can see some trust Christ.