In 1918, Helen Lemmel (1863-1961) read a tract entitled “Focused,” which included these words: “So then, turn your eyes upon him, look full into his face and you will find that the things of earth will acquire a strange new dimness.” This inspired her best-known hymn:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace.
Sometimes I hum this chorus as “background music” when I encounter the rampant tribalism that has infected and fragmented today’s politics, religions and social fabric. I offer Lemmel’s hymn as background music for this and the next few posts about dualistic, “us versus them” thinking. Divisive things are temporary. Unifying things are eternal.
On Reformation Day, it’s appropriate to acknowledge a painful “us versus them” chapter in Western history. I’m grateful to be part of a deeper unity between the Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions, largely a result of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). My life as a pastor began in 1970, after Protestants began to reclaim important parts of the larger Christian tradition.
In the mid-1970s, at a dinner meeting for Birmingham pastors, the speaker referred to a person who was converted “from Catholicism to Christianity.” I hope that organization now views Roman Catholics as “us” rather than “them.” Such divisions are among the things of earth that grow strangely dim in the light of God’s glory and grace.