Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Don't Focus on the Wrong Thing

Lately I have been thinking about John 9. In this chapter Jesus heals a man who has been born blind and because the Pharisees can't accept the miracle throws the man out of the synagogue. The event that sets off this chain reaction is a question the disciples of Jesus ask.

Jesus and his followers approach the Temple. This man who has been born blind is begging at one of the entrances to the Temple. The disciples use this as an opportunity to engage Jesus in a theological discussion. Discussing theology seems to a favorite past time for rabbis and their disciples. The question they ask seems to be a question that was much debated among the different rabbis of the time. Popular belief, among both Jews and Gentiles, was that divine punishment handed out in the form of physical suffering. So if this man was blind was it the result of his sin or his parents sin?

If it was his sin, since he was born blind, it would mean that he would have sinned while still in the womb. Some rabbis, and please don't take this as the belief of all Judaism, that it was possible for a person to sin prior to being born. Based on Genesis 25:22-26 some rabbis taught that Esau tried to murder Jacob in the womb.

Of course for us the more plausible opition is that his parents sinned. In the Old Testament God makes in clear that the sin of the parents carry consquences for their children (though the New Covenant has done away with the children being punished for the parents sin, we can still see how the consquences of the parents sin effect their children).

A third opition is that the consquences of Adam's sin is the cause of the man's sin. One doesn't have to believe in original sin to know that things are not the way God intended. We are still experiencing the effect of Adam's sin through the sickness and other tragedy the rampages this world.

Then a fourth opition, and the one that appears to be what Jesus suggests based on our English translations is that God caused the blindness so that His glory might be seen. While I acknowledge that it sounds cruel Romans 9:20-23 implies that this is under God's sovereign judgment.

Even though this is the way the verse has been translated it doesn't necessarily mean that Jesus is teaching that God ordained this man's blindness. According to Mark Moore the hina clause can indicate result but usually indicates purpose. If this is the case it could be that Jesus is ignoring the speculation and just stating the positive result. So it essence Jesus is saying, It doesn't matter why this man was born blind, what matters is that I am able to heal him. While the disciples wanted to use the man as an object for a theological discussion Jesus wanted to extend the man compassion.

Sometimes, I think, we become like the disciples because we are willing to engage in theological discussion and in the process we miss extending a compassionate hand of service to people. Theological debate should never distract us from doing what we can to help other people. There is a world of hurting people and some are hurting because of their own choices, some are huritng because of the actions of some one else, and others are hurting because of a tragedy God allowed to happen. The reason of their suffering isn't the point, the point is whether or not we will use the blessing God has given us to help them.

As followers of Christ we can't focus on the wrong thing. There is certainly a time to discuss theology and doctrine, but it is never more important than helping out people in need. Don't focus on talking about God, but focus on how you can share God's love with others.

(This was based on the thoughts Mark E. Moore shares in The Chronological Life of Christ: From Glory to Galilee pages 392 and 393.

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