How to see ‘eye to eye’

[] Is it about speaking ‘face to face’?

Surely, ‘seeing eye to eye is a misleading turn of phrase in the English language? If taken literally by someone newly learning English it might suggest looking into each other’s eyes – but, of course, that is an exercise one should actually try to perform when ‘speaking face to face‘ (e.g. 1 Corinthians 13:12 The Passion Translation).

Neither expression occurs in the Hebrew Old Testament. According to a TPT footnote on 1 Corinthians 13:12, ‘Paul is referring to God speaking to Moses “face to face” (Hebrew “mouth to mouth”), and not using dreams and figures of speech (Numbers 12:8). Transforming love will bring us all face-to-face, mouth-to-mouth with God.’

Numbers 12:8 and 14:14b in the New Living Translation tell us that in pre-Christian times the Lord would ‘speak to [Moses] face to face, clearly, and not in riddles!’ And he would ‘appear . . .  to [his] people face to facevia his ‘pillar of cloud’ that ‘hover[ed] over them.’ In fact, ‘There [had] never been another prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face’, according to Deuteronomy 34:10 NLT.

[] Reflecting on oneself ‘face to face’

Proverbs 27:19 in the English Standard Version suggests that it is beneficial to give oneself a good talking to: ‘As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man’; or ‘As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person’ (NLT). While composing this article I heard an hour-long broadcast on my bedside radio on the topic of lust. It was really just an assortment of jigsaw pieces with the picture on the box saying, ‘Since it is natural to lust it is OK to do so’. But, brought up on Scripture, I knew that Jesus taught differently about the sinfulness of looking on another person lustfully. And 1 John 2:16 associated ‘the lust of the eyes’ with Satan’s original sin as ‘the pride of life’ (King James Version – ‘a craving for everything we see’ (NLT) or ‘the allurement for the world’ (TPT). David’s lustful look at a neighbour’s wife as she bathed led to adultery and murder (see 1 Samuel 11:2-6).

[] Fixing one’s gaze on another person

I used to get fazed by how strangers in some countries in the Indian sub-continent would silently fix their gaze on me on ferries or in trains. But recently I recalled an occasion here in the UK when a man tried to stare me down. His reason for his protracted stare was not about any fault on my part, except that God had sent me to his church to minister and he had felt threatened by that simple fact. A church elder brought the two of us face to face in the church office, and I waited for this brother to express his concerns. But he simply tried to intimidate me with his stare. Having nothing to hide (having looked at my face in the water of the Word in preparation for this meeting) I returned his gaze while the minutes slowly passed. Recalling the occasion decades later, I happened to read Luke 22:61-62 in the TPT in the course of my daily devotions: ‘At that moment, the Lord, who was being led through the courtyard by his captors, turned around and gazed at Peter. All at once Peter remembered the words Jesus had prophesied over him, “Before the rooster crows in the morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” Peter burst into tears, ran off from the crowd, and wept bitterly.’ In the instance I am recalling, the other man blinked first and dropped his gaze. Soon after, he resigned his membership when his elder moved several counties away for business reasons, and (forgive the pun) no one in the church batted an eyelid when this colleague left too.

2 Kings 8:7-15 (NLT) tells of a visit by Elisha to Damascus, the capital city of northern Israel, where ‘King Ben-hadad lay sick’ He sent Hazael with loads of gifts to ask the prophet if His Majesty would recover. The Lord showed Elisha that, although the king would recover, ‘he will surely die’ at the hand of Hazael himself. ‘Elijah stared at Hazael with fixed gaze until Hazael became uneasy’, whereupon ‘the man of God started weeping’ knowing ‘the terrible things [he would] do to the people of Israel.’

[] Seeing eye to eye with one another

Of course, regular users of English know that we British say we see eye to eye when we each consider a particular point of view and agree about what we see. We may refer to an object’s beauty or usefulness, its ugliness or its pointlessness etc. And that, of course, implies that we are not looking into each other’s eyes at the time.

While I was writing this blog I discovered the word montropism that seems to be of recent origin. It describes the repetitive speech pattern of some who are affected by autism, who seem to be obsessed with a particular object [an ‘ism‘ is a belief system such as fatalism, perfectionism etc] in one [‘mono’] place [Latin tropos]. The speaker is inviting anyone listening to see what they see and how they see it.

[] Seeing situations as God sees them

Because we are ‘fallen creatures’ we need to be exhorted not to assume that our personal or group view of any matter is the whole story. As Samuel told Jesse, the father of David the future king of Israel, ‘The Lord sees not as man sees, man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart’ (1 Samuel 16:7 ESV). He saw all his grown-up sons as suitable candidates to reign, but God had chosen little David.

During the stages of creation, ‘God saw that it was good.’ But the disobedience of Adam and Eve began when she was tempted by the devil to look on the forbidden fruit as ‘beautiful’ and ‘delicious’ and the means of giving them ‘wisdom’. On eating ‘some of the fruit’, she and Adam ‘at that moment suddenly felt shame at their nakedness’, because ‘their eyes were opened’ (Genesis 3:6-7 NLT).

Abraham set us a good and not so good example. He responded obediently to ‘leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land I will show you,’ where the Lord would ‘make [him] into a great nation . . . and . . . a blessing to others.’ But he took some relatives with him, namely Lot and his wife (Genesis 12:1-4). Soon they failed to see eye to eye, because ‘Lot took a long look at the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley’ and saw that the ‘whole area [was] well-watered . . . like the garden of the Lord or the beautiful land of Egypt.’ So he ‘chose for himself . . . this area’ where ‘the people were extremely wicked and constantly sinned against the Lord’ (Genesis 13:10-13). ‘After Lot had gone, the Lord said to Abraham, “Look as far as you can see in every direction – north and south, east and west. I am giving all this land . . . to you’ (Genesis 13:14-15). And the rest, as they say, is history – disaster for Lot and family, blessing for Abraham and his spiritual family.


As I write, my wife and I each has a cataract that needs to be removed from one eye, a reminder that our natural sight is not as sharp as it once was – a parallel of our need to confer with others, family and friends, as well as specialists, just as we need to share meaningful fellowship with one another in the Body of Christ, avoiding proud monotropism!


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