“One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. And a man lame from birth was being carried in. People would lay him daily at the gate of the temple called the Beautiful Gate so that he could ask for alms from those entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, ‘Look at us.’ And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, ‘I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk,’” reads Acts 3: 1-5.
In the New Testament, within the four Gospels and the book of Acts, there are a wealth of healing stories. It is easy to praise the miracles themselves.
However, there is often more to see. For example, in the above reading, Peter heals a man crippled from birth. In their exchange, the emphasis upon eye contact is important to note. It was likely that this man cast his gaze downward. Having his pleas mostly ignored, with a constant stream of rejection, by a multitude of people looking past him, was discouraging.
Peter and John’s encounter was much different. Peter insisted on eye contact. What did this do? It gave the man dignity. It was a direct sign that he was valued as a fellow human being. It was also a way of emphasizing the words that were spoken to him, which included the source of the healing — Jesus.
We might remember this when we encounter someone panhandling for money. We may not feel called to help him or her in this way. However, if we are able, dignifying the other by making eye contact is important, as challenging as this may be.
Walter is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church and has served as parish pastor for 30 years.