It should be no surprise to us that sometimes we need to adjust our thinking about God. Is he not in his being beyond our mental categories? When C. S. Lewis became England’s most reluctant convert – as he describes himself in Surprised by Joy – a change in his thinking about God was precisely what lead him to that point.
In St. John 9, we read of how Jesus – once again – had to adjust his disciples thinking about God. As Jesus was “passing by”, he sees the blind man and determines to heal him. However, the disciples pipe in with a question. They must have noticed that Jesus was giving this blind man attention. But the first thing in their minds about him was this question of the reason the man was born blind. Whose fault was it? For this man to have suffered such an awful fate, it must have been the judgment of God for someone’s sin, either his own or his parents.
Jesus answers their question by telling them that they totally had the wrong idea about this situation. He tells them that the man was blind for another reason which they were not considering. They had a false concept about God, and that false concept not only kept them from understanding the ways of God but also lead them to have uncharitable thoughts toward this man and his family.
This kind of thinking about God is still with us today. It is an overly simplistic way of handling a very complex problem: how can God be good and in control of everything while there is so much evil and cruelty in the world? People try to answer that serious question – which has perplexed the minds of men for millenia – by taking the position that actually God is acting justly in this world – it’s just that we don’t always know the back story for why bad things happen. If we did, we would realize that somehow those things happened to those people because they had done something wrong and deserved it. We “reap what we sow,” they would say.
Now we know that there are occasions when God brings temporal judgment upon wicked people. We actually can reap what we sow. However, we know that that is not what is always happening. And here, Jesus pulls back the curtain of God’s ways and say, “Actually, this man is not blind because he or his family had done something wrong and so God is punishing them. Rather, God has allowed this tragedy for the purpose of his glory, so that his works could be seen in this man’s life.” Now that is really a complex answer! But it doesn’t come from philosophical speculation; it comes straight from the Son of God himself, who came to reveal the Father to us. It is actually the case. And if it happened in one man’s life, it could very well be something God has done with the lives of others.
In other words, Jesus confronts the disciples’ overly simplistic answer for why evil happens to people with a fact about the ways of God that is beyond their ability to completely explain and understand in this life. You can’t. Instead, you can only take a place of humility about it, quit making such quick and easy judgments about human life, and trust the wisdom of God.
God’s ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts and there is mystery about the reality that we live in every day. If we would walk with God, we must accept the fact – as Lewis tells us in Mere Christianity – that reality is complex. We must beware of getting on bandwagons – be they theological or political or whatever – that use simple explanations for what are really complex matters.
And we need to ask ourselves, do we have some false concepts about God? Are we in need of a paradigm shift like the disciples? Are we perhaps making judgments about what is going on in our world, or in the church, or in the lives of other people, or even ourselves, that miss the point because we have avoided the discomfort of really thinking things through and recognizing their complexity?
Or is there more going on? Have we misunderstood the truth, because it didn’t fit our agenda or because of some other ulterior motive we have, other than the glory of God – all in the name of the glory of God, of course!
No, this man was not born blind because of his or his parents’ sin. He was born blind for that very moment in history. He was born blind so that Jesus could, in that hour, heal him and, through him, show the works of God. If that seems unfair, we need to remember Paul’s answer to the objection in Romans: “Who are you, O man, to question what God may do with his own?” See Romans 9.
Besides, something is about to happen that is going to be a huge, huge blessing for this man, for which he will be thankful. I don’t think he is now in heaven worrying about the philosophical implications of how he was born.
If we are growing, we are going to have periodic paradigm shifts in our thinking about God and life. Do you agree?Feel free to share this post