As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” John 9:1-2
I’ve been working on reading the bible from Genesis to Revelation. I realized I can’t remember the last time I’ve done this…or at least just tried. I’m learning things all the time. Some things I’m relearning. Others I’m surprised to discover for the first time. It’s a case in point that, while daily devotions are great, just reading it through is a worthwhile thing to do.
I’m edging toward the end of the Book of Job. I’ve read Job before. I’ve identified with him when I was laid off and lost almost everything. This time is different.
Job’s friends are who I was understanding. No, I mean identifying with. If I had been in their shoes, I’d be saying the same sort of things.
“Job! Buddy! I love ya, man, but God doesn’t do this to good people. You screwed up somewhere. Figure it out, fess up, and watch your world come back together. Nobody’s perfect, nobody is without sin. Straighten yourself out.”
Having been familiar with the Old Testament, I know how God went about smiting people who really teed Him off. Egyptians, Canaanites, everyone but Noah and company…He even went after the Israelites on more than one occasion when they failed to stick to the agreement they made with God. The overall picture is pretty clear. Get out of line, and God gets you back in line, hard or soft.
When my life went south, I couldn’t help wondering what I did to deserve this. I was a leader at my church, contributing lots of time and money. Ditto to an orphan charity. I used my position at work to help others advance their careers and improve their lives. I didn’t just take my own success and sit back. I tried to pay it forward out of gratitude for what was gifted to me, to do what I felt God would want me to do. I must have done SOMETHING for things to go so wrong!
In the last year and a half, I’ve had several friends and acquaintances develop cancer. It’s always ugly, scary, and hard to understand. My former pastor is one, and I pray for him daily. I ask God to make it all just drop away from him. Please restore him to his family and flock. He was a very good pastor with love and mercy in his heart. Why?
What about the man Jesus healed? He was blind from birth. What a lousy deal for him and his parents! The poor kid was blind in the womb before ever coming to light. He could not possibly have done a single thing to bring a curse upon himself. OK. Maybe his parents did something stupid. But take it out on the kid? C’mon!
Even Jesus’ disciples thought so. Who goofed up, Jesus? Him or his parents? Jesus’ reply?
3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
So does God intentionally inflict pain to show us how great He is? Hold that thought.
Here’s something else Jesus said about sin and consequences:
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” Luke 13:1-6
So did the Galileans who were crushed by a poorly-built tower crushed because they were sinners? Well, you could say yes. Jesus asks if everyone thought they were MORE guilty, implying that they did have guilt. That’s just how they got their just desserts of sins. Others get it in other ways.
And that’s really it, isn’t it? We ALL sin and fall short of God’s glory. We all inherit sin from Adam and Eve. We are flesh of their flesh. Call it genetics, if you will.
The blind man? Inherited sin if nothing else. But God used the results of sin to give us a heads-up on just who Jesus is.
Job? Part of it was a “bet” Satan made with God. He showed Satan that faith in God is more powerful than Satan’s hold on this world that he perverted to his way of doing things. Even though we live in Satan’s hole, God teaches us that His power and mercy can still pull us out of it when it’s our time. Part of it is not part of our personal job description. Remember how God put Job in his place, asking him where he was when the world was formed. Some things are just above our pay grade. Be glad that God redeems us, sometimes in this life, always in the next.
My pastor? Well, we all sin. We all have fallen short of the glory of God. We all get slapped around to some extent. It isn’t necessarily God doing the slapping. Sometimes it’s Satan playing with the world that is his, because we – Adam & Eve and Co. – gave it to him.
The disciples? Only John died a natural death. Everyone else die brutally, gruesomely. It’s part of their incontrovertible witness to the truth of the Good News they suffered and died for.
What’s the common denominator? We’ve all sinned. We all deserve death, temporal and eternal. God chose to save us from the latter after the collective “we” decided to ruin ourselves, requiring temporal death.
Sometimes we get it ugly. Other times we’re like an elderly lady I know who, after bedtime milk and cookies, told her husband that it had been a good day, and fell asleep and died in her sleep. Was she an especially good person? Nope. A (redeemed) sinner like you and me.
Jesus also warned his disciples (including us) that if He got persecuted and tortured to death, why should we expect any better?
Why do things go so far south for some of us? Everything discussed so far boils down to one thing. Sin. And wherever sin is…