This is a very popular verse often found quoted in hymns and gospel songs today. A short and straightforward verse, yet it offers a lot of depth when you attempt to look into it. Who’s the ‘we’? What life is this? What is living by faith? How do you not live by sight, if you can see? In this study, I’ll attempt to tackle these questions and try my best to do justice to this very popular verse.
Somethings are just so ever simple, aren’t they? This verse highlights the essence of the term, ‘blind faith’. In today’s society, many people, believers or non-believers alike, scoff the concept of ‘blind faith’. How do you believe something you can’t see? How do you understand something that cannot be seen? People with blind faith are often considered foolish. But hey, blind faith for God? Heroes. I should clarify that when I say blind faith I don’t mean that you don’t understand what you believe in (a lot of theologists define it that way). Instead I mean a faith that enables you to believe what you cannot see.
This verse is wildly popular, I can think of several hymns and songs with this verse in it. The focus of this study, however, will be to explore the phrase, ‘living by sight’.
When you see nothing
I remember once doing a sound project on the topic of silence. What was true silence, I questioned. Even when I went to places that people deemed as silent, and when I would claim that I heard nothing – yet in my SPL meter there would still be flickering numbers. Sounds that we usually dismiss – background noise, sounds of nature, vibrations bouncing off objects etc. Even if we enter into a recording room, and we don’t make a single sound, our body still contributes to some level of noise. Do we know what is true silence? We do not. What does true silence sound like?
The same can probably be said of sight. Even if we close our eyes, our memory of colours and shapes fill our mind immediately to help us perceive what we expect to see. What does a person blind from birth see? What does a person deaf from birth hear? If you were born in an island, blind, and everybody around you cannot see as well, but one day a man comes to you and tell you about sight, would you believe him? How would you? How could you?
In today’s technologically advanced world where we emphasize again and again on justice and law, evidences become important not only in the courts. It is the basis to our lives. In writing an essay, we need to substantiate with statistics, with quotes, with evidences. In trying for a job, we need a recommendation letter or two to prove that we are competent in character and in skills. In courtship, we often require sweet nothings and little gifts as a show of our love.
Men has always lived by sight. All our riches, our statuses, our titles, our possessions – these are tangible things that can be seen and recognized by everybody who can see. Things that the world cannot refute, things that the world revel in.
But we cannot see God. God remains unseen, and yet we have chosen to believe him. That was the first step that ‘we’ as Christians made in this faith of ours, the first step to not conforming to the patterns of this world (Romans 12:2), the first step to living by faith and not by sight. Why do people live by sight? Why do people only believe what they see? I speculate, but we as humans have a lot of holes in our hearts. In order to overcome our fears and worries, we need to be assured by evidences. Faith fills those holes for us. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is being sure in what we hope for and believing in what we cannot see.
We walk by faith, and not by sight;
No gracious words we hear
From Him who spake as man e’er spake;
But we believe Him near.
We may not touch His hands and side,
Nor follow where He trod;
But in His promise we rejoice,
And cry, “My Lord and God!”
We Walk by Faith, and Not by Sight | Henry Alford | Hymnary.org
If we can see God, and Jesus, and the Holy Spirit today; and if we can see all the miracles that have been performed by our Lord, perhaps all the disbelieving hearts will turn to God. But that’s most likely not the point here. Whether God can be seen or not does not change the fact that He is omnipotent, omnipresent, omnibenevolent – ‘I Am Who I Am’ (Exodus 3:14). If one has the faith that he is able to believe without seeing, then let him lead a faithful life without being distracted by the things that he can see!