About Our Church
March 05, 2005, at 08:06 PM by
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As we look at Jesus' encounters with different people, we come to one of the significant few recorded by St John, that with a man born blind.
Whose fault is suffering? Jesus' disciples raise an issue that still troubles us. Is it not the cry of people everywhere - Why me? What have I done to deserve this? It seems to unfair that they should suffer so.... Etc.
Jesus clearly says that suffering is not always caused by sin. We must be very clear about this. There is not always a clear cause & effect where suffering is concerned. Sometimes there is - drunken driving leads to deaths; shoddy construction leads to a house collapse. Sometimes the connection is less obvious, but still real - for example: his sexual promiscuity leads to a man being infected with HIV, he then infects his wife, who gives birth to an HIV infected child. Our use of transport increases pollution of the atmosphere, which leads to increased asthma suffering - who's to blame? A person refuses to forgive someone who has wronged them, and this eats away at them causing illness.
But, the fact that we can sometimes find causes does not mean we always can or should. Jesus in today's story rejected outright the idea that the man's blindness was caused by his or his parents' sin, so we must beware.
In particular, it is not the place of others to ask if someone deserves their suffering. We should examine our own consciences to see if we have done something to cause our own suffering, or to cause the suffering of others, so that we can repent and redress matters if we can, but we do not need to apportion blame to others. The questions we should ask are...
How can God's work be displayed in my life & situation. "This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life," said Jesus (John 9v3). This does not have to be understood to mean that God distorted natural events so this man would be born blind ready for Jesus to heal him. It could equally be a reminder to all of us that God is looking to work in every situation & circumstance in which we find ourselves in a way which will bring blessing to us and to others, in ways which can show how he makes a positive difference. "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him." (Romans 8v28) Thus, for example, a young woman, Joni Eareckson, paralysed in a diving accident, did not see God's work displayed in her healing, but in learning to live with her handicap. If you've not read her story, you can borrow her books from our Church. We must pray for ourselves and for others, that we will co-operate with God so he can bring good out of our situation, whether it be by changing the situation of by changing us.
You do not have perfect children, rather kids who test your patience? You may have done nothing to deserve them (!), but they are an opportunity for you to grow in grace, as well as for God to work in them to make them more like Christ.
What can I do to help? That's the 2nd question to ask, the one which Jesus answered in this case by healing the man. Every situation of suffering is a challenge & opportunity for us to do good, as Jesus would. Let's get stuck in and do all the good we can - that will help display God's work.
So finding ourselves in a situation of suffering what should we expect?...
Obedience to Jesus made healing possible. It's only when we get into the right relationship with God through Jesus that things can move in the right direction in our lives. Here Jesus told the man to go and wash his face in the Pool of Siloam. When he obeyed he was healed. We too have to respond positively to Jesus' prescription for our situation - to learn to give thanks despite our problems, to be patient despite our trials, to think of others' needs more than our own, to forgive those who have hurt us, to be content with poverty. Like a good doctor's remedy, which may be horrid tasting medicine, an operation or giving up something bad for our health, Jesus' cure may not be what wed choose, but it will be what we need, so we must accept it and act upon it.
He had to hold onto what Jesus had done for him when others doubted or challenged him. The religious leaders doubted the man's story and challenged his assertions. His parents distanced themselves - " '... we don't know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.' His parents said this because they were afraid.." (v.21-22) Whatever your situation and whatever Jesus may be saying to you in it, some others are bound to say things that will seem to undermine you. Like the man in the story, you must expect opposition if you witness to the truth about Jesus and what he is doing in your life. When he spoke positively about Jesus he was attacked and rejected, and that may happen to you too. It may even be religious people who are guilty, as was the case here. But you have to stick with what Jesus is doing in your life. "One thing I know. I was blind but now I see!" (v.25) That was the man's experience, and he boldly kept witnessing to it. What is Jesus saying to you and doing in your life? You must hold onto that. God will honour your witness, even if others reject it.
Affirming what God has done for you will lead to growth in faith. Jesus' further encounter with the man led to him coming to fuller faith. "Then the man said, 'Lord I believe,' and he worshipped him." (v.38) Our relationship with God needs to develop & grow. There is so much more for us to discover, enjoy and share with others, that we must not be content to vegetate. Jesus came to bring us life in all its fulness, but we only enter into this by taking one step at a time. Each positive response will lead on to the next. Even the longest journey starts with one step. Let's go on & grow, like this man born blind.
Our response to Jesus shows where we stand. However much we may respect others and value them, we cannot get away from the truth that Jesus is the ultimate measure God brings to our lives. This story ends with Jesus saying that real blindness, spiritual blindness is shown by our response to him. We cannot be complacent because we have made a Christian commitment - we must keep responding positively to him in every circumstance, otherwise we are closing our eyes to the light. We must also try, lovingly, to share Jesus with others, so that they can discover his light. We must make Jesus the ultimate criterion by which we respond to everything. "Would Jesus be happy with what I'm doing now?" is a telling question to ask ourselves. Let's not refuse to ask it and so be blind!
May we then hear & learn the lessons Jesus wants for us from this story.