Who sinned?


Today’s readings:
Psalms 119:73-80; 145, Jeremiah 24:1-10, Romans 9:19-33, John 9:1-17

As he [Jesus] walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”

It is no surprise (to modern readers of the Gospel anyway) that Jesus restored the man’s sight. So instead, let’s focus on the disciples’ assumption that the man’s condition must have been a punishment for someone’s sin. Jesus quickly relieves them of this notion, but it’s part of a theology that persists. Maybe it’s a defense mechanism: if we can blame someone’s misfortune on their mistakes, we worry less it might happen to us. Unfortunately, we seem to extend that line of thinking in additional directions. While today we are less likely to blame the physically disabled for their condition, we are relatively quick to blame the poor, the mentally ill, refugees, and other groups for theirs. Some circumstances are certainly a result of poor choices, but we like a convenient excuse for responding with non-demanding judgment rather than with compassion insisting on action.

“But wait,” you may be thinking, “didn’t Jesus say the man was born blind for a purpose?” Yes … and no. What does it mean for God’s work to be revealed through the needy? Not that they’ve been capriciously selected for suffering so God can show off. If the work of God’s children is to love God and one another, then the greater the need we meet, the greater the revelation of God’s glorious work.

Christ’s message to the healthy and wealthy is not: “be kind to the needy.” The message is: “You are the needy.” Indifference, selfishness, and judgment erode the spirit every bit as much as poverty, illness, and oppression erode the flesh. And the remedy for poverty of the spirit is identifying with poverty of the flesh so closely that any unbound wound is felt as our own. Apart, we are a meaningless tangle of misery. Together, each of us is a knot reinforcing a tapestry woven from mercy.

Comfort: We are blessed with a purpose that unites us with each other.

Challenge: When we know someone who suffers, let us try to understand how we are related to both their suffering and their well-being.

Prayer: God of all creation, teach me to love all your children. Amen.

Discussion: How do you understand the relationship between sin and suffering?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll  have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!

In(ter)dependence Day


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 96; 147:1-11, Nahum 1:1-14, Revelation 12:1-6, Luke 11:37-52

We admire independence. We sing the praises of the self-sufficient, the self-made, and the independently wealthy. And yet … it is largely a myth. While relying on someone else is often portrayed as a weakness, the human condition is primarily one of interdependence. We rely on each other in ways large and small.

American Christians tend to speak of salvation in fairly independent terms – my personal relationship with Christ; the day I was saved; etc. Yet Jesus and the prophets spoke of salvation in terms of entire nations. Jesus said several times he came for the nation of Israel. He condemned the Pharisees and lawyers not just for their own misdeeds, but for hindering others from entering the kingdom. When the prophet Nahum spoke about God’s wrath falling on the city of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, he spoke to them as a people; the righteous would also pay for the deeds of the unrighteous. Does this seem unfair? Unjust?

Whether we recognize it or not, others depend on us for salvation. Our witness is only as credible as our character. Many people have turned (or been driven) from the faith because of the misbehavior and hypocrisy they experience in Christian community. Must we be perfect? Of course not. We should, however, remain aware that once we call ourselves Christians, our example teaches people what to expect from Christ.

Perhaps we think people are responsible for their own salvation, and perhaps ultimately they are, but such thinking diminishes the faithful parents, teachers, mentors, and friends who introduced us to our beliefs and helped us through hard times. People who are swayed by bad examples are no weaker or less deserving than we who had the benefit of good ones. Of people who cause others to lose faith, Jesus says: “It would be best for that person to be thrown into the sea with a large stone hung around his neck.”

A community rises or falls together because its tangle of cause and effect can’t be teased apart. Whether our interdependence is a blessing or curse is entirely dependent on us.

Comfort: You don’t have to go it alone.

Challenge: As you go about your daily business, think about all the things other people do to make it possible for you to do the things you do.

Prayer: Holy and loving God, may I be a worthy witness for you. Amen.

Discussion: When have you been forced to depend on someone? How did it make you feel?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group or follow @comf_and_chall on Twitter. You’ll  have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!