Looking Past The Surface

“You are looking at things as they are outwardly.” (II Corinthians 10:7)

Many of the Corinthians evidently didn’t think much of the Apostle Paul. He wasn’t very “impressive” outwardly:  verse 10 says that many of them were saying, “His personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible.” But Paul was more than met the eye. Although he “walked in the flesh” in an unimpressive way, he did not “war according to the flesh”, but had a “divine power” in his life in through the Holy Spirit of God (:3-4). The Apostle Paul was one of the most influential people who ever walked this earth — he wrote almost half of the books of the New Testament — and yet many of the Corinthians couldn’t see past the fact that he didn’t “look” impressive to them.

This is just the problem that many people have today: we look at people and things “outwardly”: on a surface level, instead of discerning their character, or spirit. This is especially true in America, where “optics” are everything, and “looking good” is often substituted for qualities of substance and character.  One of the foremost qualifications for leadership in our country today is that they must look and sound “presidential” — regardless of their inward character.

And unfortunately it is not just the world which evidences this shallowness. Many Christians demonstrate the same shortsightedness. It was that way in Paul’s day: it wasn’t the world but CHRISTIANS he was addressing here! He was saying the Corinthians Christians had a problem of looking at things outwardly — and it is surely the case today as well. Too many of us in the American church “look at things outwardly”:

— We evaluate people on a very surface level, by what they look like, instead of discerning their spirit and character.
— We look at churches outwardly: what kind of building/facilities they have, instead of their doctrine and spirit.
— We discern situations we face as “good” or “bad” based on outward standards of material “success” instead of considering what God’s ultimate purposes might be, or what He is building into our character.

And on and on. Too many of us are leading shallow, “two-dimensional” lives, without considering the spiritual dimension of the people and situations we encounter. May God grant us the grace to discern the importance of the inward, the spiritual, in everything we encounter, and not, like the Corinthians, to merely “look at things as they are outwardly.”

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, features the text of my sermons, book reviews, family life experiences -- as well as a brief overview of the Lifeway "Explore the Bible" lesson for Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers.
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