Discerning Church Learning to discern the movement of God's Spirit

Single Eye

I am spending a large chunk of today in Stephen Fowl’s Engaging Scripture: a Model for Theological Interpretation. He is proposing a new method of interpreting scripture. He suggests that scripture can only be interpreted through the life, practices, and worship of God’s people. While his arguments are fairly complex, he nails an important point in the third chapter. Fowl describes the “single eye” as a necessary trait of a Christian community. What does he mean?

In our world of information overload, focus is a virtue. One Mac app is even called OmniFocus. Productivity consultants abound; we have lost our attention. Maybe we should say, we have lost our ability to focus our attention. Fowl points to Luke 11:34-36. Jesus admonishes his follows to “See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.” (Luke 11:35 NIV) The word skopei (translated by the NIV as See to it) means to pay careful attention to, or watch closely. What are watching out for? Light. We need to scope out ourselves to be careful that we have light, not darkness.

Fowl describes how this works out. He contrasts the rich young ruler with Zacchaeus. The former comes looking for salvation, only to walk away without it. He refuses to be singly focused on Jesus; his attention is on his wealth. The latter comes looking only for Jesus. When his attention lands on Jesus he cannot get rid of his wealth fast enough. (Fowl, 80) Fowl contrasts the “woman who was a sinner” with Simon the Pharisee.

The sinful woman’s single-minded attention to Jesus focuses on washing and anointing his feet (7:37-8). Simon also has an interest in Jesus, but it is of a different sort. (Fowl, 80)

The tax-collector (Zacchaeus) and the “woman who was a sinner” find Jesus. As they focus on Jesus with a single-eye, their sin is apparent; Jesus’ offer for forgiveness is irresistible.

What is striking about those who fail to demonstrate the sort of single-minded attention required of those who would be filled with light is that they are all interested in Jesus. It is not the case that they are ignorant of or indifferent to him. Rather, they are not attentive in the appropriate way or to a sufficient degree. (Fowl, 81)

As we consider churches discerning, I am afraid that our attention is scattered. We attend to politics, culture, media; our concentration is spread thin. Jesus is clear that a single eye is necessary. We should skopei (make very sure, look closely) that we are in the light. Fowl describes “vigilant communities” striving for single eye attention on our sin and Jesus’ forgiveness. May we learn to function in this way.