Walking along the busy highway, the followers of Jesus are confronted by a sight both common and unnatural. A man bereft of sight is begging by the roadside. He is doing the only thing he knows how to, given what he is. In the world he lives in, there is little room for a blind man.
The disciples are not indifferent to his plight, though he was not the first, nor would he be the last they confronted as they moved from town to town and village to village. Every place had its own share of blighted hopes, disappointed lives, broken bodies and bent minds. They understood that their master was in the business of making men whole, but they had a question. One that appeared both reasonable and relevant.
“Master...why was this man born blind? Was it as a result of his own sins or those of his parents?" (Jn. 9:2 LB).
It is a question that resonates across the centuries and finds its natural echo in our own instinctive response. We too, when confronted by a tragedy, a crisis, or a dilemma, have the same question. Like the disciples, we want to know whose fault it is.
Sometimes it does matter why. It matters because the undoing of what went wrong is an inseparable part of resolving the consequences. Sometimes there is a responsibility to be faced, a step to be retraced, even a wrong to be repented. But not always.
Learning to counsel is like exploring a country. Often you will come upon scenes very similar to ones you have visited elsewhere. The natural features – hills, river, valley – are so like where you have been before the temptation is to say ‘I recognise this place; I can find my way through here.’ And we stride confidently off in the direction we are sure will bring us to where we need to be.
But everywhere is not the same. A river is a river, but not every river is the same. Some you ford, some you swim, some you may use a boat; others, you have to look for the nearest bridge. What worked last time may not work the next. What unlocked the situation before, may freeze it solid this time round. Success has its risks too and one of them is that when we find something that works, we will put our trust in the thing that worked. Which is why, in preparing us to counsel, God is less concerned with giving us answers than in teaching us wisdom.
The disciples misunderstood because their minds had made an assumption before their lips ever phrased the question they came to Jesus with.
They assumed it was somebody’s fault.
They believed it could only be one of two possibilities.
They believed that laying the blame would lift the curse.
It is more important to see God do something, than to understand why he does it.
It is better to stand back and let God work, than to explain why he needs to.
A compassionate heart is of infinitely more use to God than a questioning mind.
Sometimes the tragedy we see in someone’s life, is only a small part of the bigger thing God is already working on. It is less the end-result of some else’s actions; more the birth-place of God’s emerging purposes.
The disciples saw theology. Jesus saw humanity. They saw an intellectual problem. He saw a man robbed and spoiled. No prizes for guessing which was closest to the Father’s heart!
If we are invited into the strange, private, intimate world of another’s life, it is not so that we can understand how the universe turns on its axis. It is so that God may come in through the door of their crisis and speak hope and healing.
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This happens to be a Bible lesson I was thinking about just this week. Reading your very thoughtful, wisely scripted article sharpened my understanding further about this timeless message, and its deep meanings for all of us.
What a wonderful testament to those who obtain information about another person (in part or in whole). At that point we are given the option--do nothing but spend your time with gossip and accusation or listen so that you might help. I think it is clear what Jesus would have us do.
Thank you for a beautiful lesson.