Studies show that the average person says 15,000 words each day; we do a TON of talking. And because of that, we give a lot of attention to which words we use. Are they politically correct? Are they mean? Uplifting? Smart? This list could go on forever, but you get the point. Our concern for words could never be more prevalent than when we consider sharing our faith with someone not familiar with Jesus. How many times have you worried you wouldn’t know what to say to a difficult question? How many times have you worried they’d respond negatively to what you say? It can be debilitating, can’t it?
I was wrestling with this very question recently when I came across an interesting incident involving Peter in Acts. “One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer — at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple later called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John” (Acts 3:1-4, NIV).
I love that Peter and John didn’t begin with words. Eventually they start talking and go on to heal this man, but the start of it all is a look. Luke, who wrote the book of Acts, says they “looked straight at him.” The New Living Translation says they “looked at him intently.” And yet another translation, the English Standard Version, says Peter “directed his gaze at him.” Eye contact. That was step one in this interaction. Looking at someone on purpose, with intent, making sure that person understands — before you say anything — that they are the center of your attention.
Here’s why I think that’s important: because being treated with such focus and attention is such a rare thing in our day and age. How we look at people as we walk down the street, or check out at the store, or sit next to them at a traffic light really matters. It says more than words ever can.
Can you imagine what it was like to have Peter look at you intently? I wonder what it would have been like to have Jesus look straight at you. What’s it like for other people when you look straight at them? Is it anything like what this man felt? His conversation with Peter ended in healing and an understanding of who Jesus of Nazareth was. Can people see that in your eyes? Can they see your eyes at all? Or are you too busy to look intently?
Peter didn’t have money to give this man — but he did have something of even more valuable. And you know what Peter’s first words were according to the ESV? “Look at us.” Maybe what your eyes say carries a little more weight than what your mouth says. This week, show people Jesus by the way you look.
After serving as the Student Ministries Pastor for 10 years, Josh Petersen is now the Lead Pastor of Immanuel Church. He’s married to Heidi and together they live with Jake, Logan, Cole and Sawyer at the circus they call home.