Do your eyes work correctly? Eyes, when working as God intricately designed them, are amazing. They naturally put their greatest effort into seeing vividly what is right in front of them. They prioritize carefully. That is not to say that they don’t take the longer look or look on the edges. There is, in fact, peripheral vision to catch a problem on the sides. Peripheral vision complements normal vision, but can never supersede it.
To test our theory, you could run down a trail forcing your eyes to focus on your peripheral vision. What would happen? In short order, you would trip over something and fall flat on your face. I don’t imagine you would get up, brush yourself off, and proclaim focusing on peripheral vision is the most important thing of all.
It would be nice if we could carry the obvious over into our spiritual lives. Peripheral vision is a help, but it had better not be our main focus. Yet we see it so often in our Independent Baptist world. The peripheral is given the preeminence. The main vision falls on the edges.
We see, for example, standards being given the main focus. We have some churches where two weeks can’t even pass by without some strong statements being made about standards. As you might imagine, when you stare too long at what you should only be glancing at, you will become obsessed. In that environment standards grow beyond general guidelines on the edge to a main focus that ever grows to infiltrate the most minute details of life. Dress, entertainment, and on to every facet of life we go. But our eyes are not on the trail right in front of us. We live on the margins when the trail is so nice.
This peripheral vision that goes so beyond its intended scope shows up in other dramatic ways. It becomes such a habit that now it infects our preaching. We come to a passage in God’s Word that in its proper context has something so profound, so vital, to say to our Christian life and we read with our peripheral vision. We miss Christ, or some essential truth to living the Christian life, and see something on the edges that is in no way the main point. The side point becomes the main point and we fall on our faces yet again.
Let us be clear here–the Lord calls us to a single focus. As Matthew 6:22 says,
The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
We need a single vision. Christ wants no rivals. Not even things about Him can have any of His place. Rules to live a way He likes can not supersede a personal fellowship with Him. When I say such peripheral vision will trip you up, I mean it. Though many Independent Baptists bristle when you mention the Pharisees, the story of peripheral vision is their biography. They went deeper and deeper into it until after a few centuries they did not even know the Son of God when they looked Him in the face! As the above Scripture says, keep a single vision and you will be full of light. Need I remind you Who is the Light of the world? Don’t ditch your peripheral vision as it occasionally will be of great help, but ever keep your eyes straight ahead.
Find all posts in the series here.