Quiet Eyes

August 16, 2022

Forgive them, Father. They don’t know what they’re doing.” (Luke 23:34)

I am convinced that these are among the most powerful words ever spoken by our Lord. 

They are words spoken from the cross. 

Words spoken when the Lord felt most alone. 

Words spoken when the Lord could see no obvious assurance that His ministry had been successful..

Think of it.

For three years, the Lord preached and lived love. 

For three years, the Lord sacrificed personal comfort in order to comfort the comfortless.

For three years, the Lord chose to use His divine power, not for Himself, but for the healing, feeding, and inclusion of others, often to the detriment of His own wellbeing, His own nurture, and His own inclusion in society.

For three years, the Lord sought to show those ‘with eyes to see and ears to hear’ what it meant to love as God loves.

And to what end?

The Lord ended up on a cross. 

Definitely a case of ‘no good deed goes unpunished!’

Or was it?

As Christ hung dying, His ministry continued. 

Christ didn’t curse His persecutors.

Christ didn’t call down the wrath of God on ‘those people.’

Christ didn’t play the ‘holier than thou’ card because He ‘knew best’ and those who didn’t agree with Him.

Christ looked on everyone and forgave them.  

+ + +

Forgiveness isn’t permission-giving that ignores hateful, unloving behaviors.  

Forgiveness acknowledges that often humans are often ignorant of the consequences of their actions and offers the opportunity for self-awareness and new beginnings.  

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Howard Thurman, a 20th century theologian and social justice advocate, spoke of ‘quiet eyes.’ I believe that quiet eyes are forgiving eyes.

Quiet eyes are not critical, but rather eyes that look past the action and into the heart; eyes that look to the brokenness beneath those actions; eyes that search for goodness to be encouraged rather than searching for flaws and missteps to be condemned.

Quiet eyes leave room for self-reflection for ourselves as well as for others.  

Quiet eyes are not quick to condescendingly ‘fix’ the other, but rather leave room for repaired relationships and mutual empowerment.

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Forgive them they don’t know what they are doing.’

Christ’s words are not just for ‘them’ but for me, and possibly you, as well.

How often do I ‘think I am doing the right thing’ because it is ‘what I have been taught,’ ‘what works for me,’ ‘what affirms me,’ ‘what makes me feel comfortable?’  

How often do I put myself in the position of knowing ‘what is best for you’ – especially if ‘that best’ would have a positive impact on my life or feed into my agenda.

How easy it is to condemn others without trying to understand ‘where the other is coming from,’ or their ‘back story?’ 

You know, the Pharisees and the Romans whom we self-righteously condemn for crucifying Christ were doing what they thought were in their best interest, for the good of the general populace, and in keeping with what they had been taught (the Pharisees), and the job they had been sent to do (the Romans).  

Those groups weren’t out to kill God’s Son; they were trying to maintain the religious and political status quo, during a time of great instability.  

They thought they could speak for God’s will much better than some carpenter from Nazareth; after all, what good comes of Nazareth? ( John 1:46)

They thought they knew more about governance than ‘those people’ in Israel.

Sound familiar? I thought so, too, Familiar, not just as I consider others, but as I reflect on myself as well.

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‘Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.’

Even with His last breath, the Lord, looked with quiet eyes and offered forgiveness; a forgiveness carrying with it a future of new beginnings.

Sometimes, we may long for such opportunity, but we don’t really believe it is possible so we ‘keep on keeping on’ taking the same stands, spouting the same mindless rhetoric, choosing to punish rather than forgiving and seeking forgiveness.  Beside we are positive that ‘the other’ won’t ever change, so why bother? 

Such thinking – such lack of vision – is death dealing not life renewing.  

One of the expressions making the circuits these days is about ‘being seen.’  People long to be seen for who they really are – the children of God, of worth and value beyond their exterior affects.  Remember the old expression “don’t judge a book by its cover?” Take the time to read the human book – discover the soul inside the cover!


What if we chose to look with the quiet eyes of Christ today?

What if, even when we felt persecuted and abused, we saw a way to ‘make space’ not only for others, but for ourselves; space for self-reflection about all the ‘things we have done and left undone?’ 

It is in this liminal space that the possibilities for a different future filled with renewal and hope is found?

Quiet eyes.

Eyes that see through the holy lens of grace and mercy, not worldly fault-finding.  

Eyes that bring us to a place of healing, companionable silence where we can experience the humanity of each other and then renew, rebuild, and begin life together again.

Eyes that see that, even in this worldly chaos that we have made, there is hope to be found, peace to be claimed, life to be lived if we but look quietly and deeply at ourselves and others.

Is such vision possible?  With God, all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26) God would never ask anything of us that is impossible to accomplish as the Holy One works in and through us. 

I think it’s worth a shot, don’t you?

And to God be the glory!  AMEN.

Published by Pastor Catharine

Retired ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. I have a Master's of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry (with an emphasis on Spiritual Transformation of Community) from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

4 thoughts on “Quiet Eyes

  1. Thank you for this. So appropriate in our current climate of blame and our unwillingness to stop and talk/discuss/share ideas. The world is a difficult place now more than ever it seems and yet we know it’s always been divisive. When will we learn?

    I have missed your writing. Glad to see it today. Always thoughtful and always a blessing.

    Miss you.


  2. What encouraging thoughts for us today. We appear to be dealing with so much from every direction and it is so easy to find fault in others. If we could live with LOVE in every thing we do, what a different world it would be. We need to stop and think about what JESUS gave for each and every one of us, our path is direct and true if we follow Him and His teachings. God bless us all and forgive us for what we do to others.
    Thank you for your wonderful thoughts and inspiration.
    Love and hugs


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