When Jesus Won't Play Along
I love to screw around with my kids, especially Seth (4), and ask him questions like: "Seth, who's smarter, Mommy or Daddy? Who's faster? Prettier? Smellier? Tougher?" I don't believe in reincarnation, but if I did, I would suppose in a former life he was a presidential candidate. He'll inevitably respond, "Both of you are pretty. Both smartest. Both smelly..." and so on. Seth refuses the either/or options because Seth thinks my options are dumb. They are dumb, and that's what makes the game fun.
Lately I've been circling John 9 like a homing pigeon. The passage is hilarious, full of sarcasm, humor, danger, and all the elements that are easily glossed over in black and white text. Like the part where the man who was healed of blindness turns to his inquisitors and says, "Why do you keep asking me how this happened? Are you so intrigued by the story that you want me to tell it again so you can become his (Jesus's) disciples?" Ha! Love this wise guy.
Then there's my favorite part. The religious leaders ask Jesus why the man was born blind to begin with. They offered the only two reasons that people were born blind: (1) The man sinned or (2) the man's parents had sinned (makes you wonder when the man had time to sin prior to birth; I suppose that's for another blog). Anyhow, Jesus refuses to play along and comes back with this brilliant word, neither. As in, your options aren't good options. But Jesus's followup response is sheer brilliance: Let's look for God's glory to come from this man's life.
That's the part I love. It's one of those responses that I think, "Yeah, that's what I would have said!," only I wouldn't have said it and would have thought of it later. Jesus knew the drill, and so did the blind man--people are born blind because God is teaching them a lesson, or paying them back for someone's sin. That's how it goes. Everyone knew that's how God acted...except Jesus. And that's why I take my cues about what God is like from Jesus.
Rather than looking for reasons why bad things happened to seemingly innocent people, Jesus looked for the glory of God to emerge from that person's life. True enough, we reap what we sow when it comes to hard living, but there's not a one-to-one correlation where we can look at a situation and find its roots all the time. Jesus wasn't looking back; he was looking ahead to see how God might take all things and lure them toward good.
Maybe there is a reason for a circumstance. So what. Rather than asking, "Why God?" perhaps we can ask "Where God?" as in, where is God at work now? That's hopeful. That's beautiful. That's where I see Jesus looking.