First, go and watch this video.
Did you go an watch it? If not, you must for this to make sense. I’ll wait.
What is happening to you in this video (as long as you’ve never seen it before) is called inattentional blindness.
Daniel Simons at youarenotsosmart.com says,
“What is inattentional blindness? It’s missing something right in front of your eyes because you are paying attention to something else. What makes that a great topic for You Are Not So Smart is that this blindness is always part of experience, but you can spend a lifetime without ever knowing it happens. You tend to have an intuition and a belief that you see everything you are facing, and if something out of the ordinary was to happen, it would instantly grab your attention. Not so. Science has revealed you are basically blind to that which you are not attentive, yet your conscious experience and your memories don’t reflect this.”
Humans are arrogant and prideful. We believe that if we could see it, we will see it, especially if it were odd or important. This test has proven scientifically that no, we would not. If our attention is focused elsewhere, we will never see it. Only when your attention is called away from the basketball players and onto the gorilla do you finally see him.
Humans don’t just have inattentional blindness when it comes to physical vision, either. The Scriptures tell us that humans also have a kind of spiritual blindness that prevents them from seeing God or understanding the Gospel. (2 Corinthians 4:4, Romans 3:11, 1st Corinthians 2:14)
I believe these three truths tell us that the reason humans cannot see or understand+ the Gospel on their own effort is similar to our problem with inattentional blindness in the physical realm. We see only that which our attention is focused on. Paul’s sweeping condemnation of all mankind in Romans 1 explains that when humanity threw out the knowledge of God long ago in the garden, we began to focus on the created things instead of the Creator, namely ourselves. Therefore, although the Creator is plain to us through His creation, we don’t see Him for the same reason we don’t see the gorilla in the video. Our attention is focused elsewhere. In this way, Satan has blinded us, not through some magic power, but by simply misdirecting our attention to selfish attitudes that prevent us from ever seeing God, even though He is plainly displayed before us in His work.
When evangelists try to point people to God, the reaction is similar to our reaction when the video first tells us there was a gorilla we missed. “Nonsense!”, we cry. Surely if there were a gorilla, we would have seen him, such an outlandish thing could not have danced before our very eyes unnoticed. But it did. When we tell people there is a God and a Savior and everything about the Gospel, men scoff. Surely if a god existed, especially one so involved in human affairs, it would be more obvious to us. Folks, God is as obvious as that gorilla, if not more. If you do not see Him, it is because you aren’t looking for Him. God must reveal Himself to humans in a similar way the gorilla is revealed in the video: first through proclamation (preaching), then through divine revelation (by God). Salvation is dependent on God, not on human determination.
But this spiritual blindness can happen to believers as well. I am convinced that God is daily putting on displays of profound truth for us believers that we often miss due to our misdirected focus. We are too focused on our jobs, hobbies, worries, concerns, and so forth and miss the displays of grace and truth that could be ours. God is always for us if we are His, yet we do not see it because we are not focused on Him. Perhaps this is why it was written “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you.” Such a Kingdom focus would ensure we see what is important, and not what is passing away. If this experiment proves anything, it is that we will miss things. We can’t focus on everything at once. It is best to see God and miss the world than to see the world and miss God.