Vol. 19 No. 30 | July 30, 2017
These five verses serve as the introduction to one of the great stories from the life of Jesus.
Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?”
Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.” (John 9:1-5, The Message)
The disciples are trying to understand Jesus. They are watching his every move. The religious leaders are trying to catch Him in sin, but His disciples ultimately, are just trying to understand Him. They have committed to follow Him, and they want to be like Him. But they are blinded by their humanity. They make human assumptions. They ask questions based on human understanding, and they give human explanations. Their eyes have not yet been opened to see Jesus for who He really is.
When they see the blind man, they revert to a common assumption of human reasoning: Good things happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people. If someone is suffering, it is because he or she has sinned. That is what His disciples believed. This belief may go all the way back to the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were punished for their sin. And you certainly see this logic conveyed in the story of Job when his friends and advisors tell him:
Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished?
Where were the upright ever destroyed?
As I have observed, those who plow evil
and those who sow trouble reap it.” (Job 4:7-8, NIV)
This understanding of life was common then, and is still common today. There is some truth to the fact that we reap what we sow and that sin has consequences. However, suffering is not necessarily the result of sin. In this scene, Jesus is not only trying to enlighten His disciples to this truth, He is also attempting to teach them that something much bigger is going on.
Read His words again:
You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do.
Now, consider what Jesus is saying.
First, as followers of Jesus, we need to stop trying to blame people. Blaming others — someone, anyone — is a favorite pastime of our culture. Consider what is going on in Washington D. C. with the election tampering issue; the healthcare debate; and the arguments between the White House and the media. Read the comments on social media. (On second thought, you may not want to do that.) Listen to the discussions in corporate offices, church business meetings, and between husbands and wives. For some reason, we feel that we must blame someone when things do not go the way we want them to.
Jesus offers an alternative that leads us to move toward seeing beyond who’s at fault. He seems to be saying that sometimes people get sick, sometimes things go wrong, and sometimes people suffer for no apparent reason. Sometimes bad things happen to good people, and sometimes good things come to those we consider bad. It seems unfair and it seems wrong, but it happens.
Second, when circumstances seem dark, God may actually be doing great work.
Look instead for what God can do.
In this story, Jesus is about to do something amazing. Jesus is about to do something radical and scandalous. If we keep our focus on blaming this man or his parents, we miss the miracle, we miss the thrill, and we miss the amazing. This is the message of the entire story in John 9, and this is the tragedy of much of what we call religion. While searching for someone to blame, we miss what God is doing.
I suspect you will see things, hear stories, and have experiences this week that by all accounts are unfair, cruel, and tragic. In some instances, who is at fault will be obvious. In some instances, justice will be carried out, and in some it will not. In some instances, you may be called upon to pass judgment, determine who is at fault, and place blame. Please be careful with this, and do your absolute best to move through this process thoughtfully, prayerfully, and with as much kindness as possible.
As you move through those difficult situations, remember to look for what God is doing or is about to do. Do not spend your time seeking to place blame and miss the miraculous work of God.
Move toward seeing beyond who is at fault to seeing what God is actually doing.
A Norvell Note © Copyright 2017 Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved