Who Sinned?

By Tim Reside

One day Jesus encountered a man blind from birth. His student disciples asked: “Teacher, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?”

Only the ignorant would deny that there are cause-to-effect relationships in life. Only the naive would argue that the quality of individual choice does not produce a consequence. Even science now informs us that there are predisposing genetic factors at work – for good and bad in our lives – that are rooted in the blurred genealogy of ancestral choices.

There is, however, one cause-to-effect relationship that has probably caused more individual suffering than any other. Untold numbers throughout human history have suffered the harsh and even cruel reproach of presumptuous and premature leaps to judgment regarding the cause of individual pain and manifest brokenness.

Throughout history, such maladies as blindness, deafness, leprosy, crippling, epilepsy, mental illness, and even goiters have been the recognized evidence that God was judging personal failure. Sadly, broken people in need of help, hope, and healing have too often been stigmatized and even ostracized by family, society, and the church. Tragically, broken people in need of help, hope, and healing have actually suffered forms of torturing punishment, and/or purgation at the hands of family, society, religion, and science in the name of cure.

I am so grateful for the answer given by Jesus of Nazareth to his disciples: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” — John 9:1-3 NRSV.

Was Jesus suggesting that the blind man and his parents had lived lives free of “sin?” No! Was Jesus saying that God pre-planned that this man was to suffer blindness so that God could do a miracle and get credit? No! Jesus was saying that this man had dealt with enough pain in life without being marginalized as one deservingly judged a sinner simply because he was blind. Jesus was saying that this man’s blindness presented his disciples with an opportunity to glorify God by bringing to this man and his family help, hope, and healing – not the additional burden of guilt and condemnation.

Can there be a cause-to-effect relationship between personal “sin” and suffering? Indeed! Should this be the automatic assumption without careful assessment? Indeed not! Can healing be a cure? Indeed! Is healing necessarily a cure? Indeed not!

Healing is bigger than cure! Healing delivers from fear! Healing delivers from unwarranted guilt! Healing is the gift of Wholeness to the broken while yet experiencing their brokenness!

TIM RESIDE is the President of Bright Tomorrows. Tim has completed 108 credit hours of study in Practical Theology, inclusive of 36 hours at the doctoral level, and holds an MA in Practical Theology. Tim has been successfully coping with and overcoming bipolar illness since 1979.