< February 11, 2018 >

Commentary on John 9:1-41

 

Jesus heals a man blind from birth. Instead of celebrating this good deed, members of the religious establishment accuse Jesus of being an evil person.

There are times when good is not good enough. This is one of the most fascinating social phenomena of contemporary Christian fellowship. This occurs when someone does something that is a genuine Christian act, brings a positive result and reflects well on Christian people and someone becomes angry instead of becoming joyful. It is a sad day when good is not good enough.

This occurs for two reasons. The first reason, obviously, is envy. Some people cannot tolerate the fact that other people have gifts, talents and skills which they do not possess. When someone does something well, they go into overdrive to discredit the good work of others. They say things like “That’s nice” or “That’s cute.” Nothing someone else does is ever good, great, or awesome. It is never pretty, beautiful, or outstanding. It is always barely good enough.

The real issue is that some people simply do not want to share the limelight. They always want to be on center stage or they want their children to be on center stage. Only those who share their DNA and/or share their beliefs are worthy of praise. Such an attitude has no place in the Christian community. It is one of the main, true criticisms of Christianity: too many Christians are not actually Christian. Such behavior is no different than attitudes in corporate America. If we act no differently than non-Christians, why should people become Christians?

The second reason is what sociologists call cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance occurs when reality does not confirm expectations but people continue believing what they believed previously. A woman named “Anna” resided in Charlottesville, VA, for years. She said that she was Anastasia Romanov, the daughter of the last Czar of Russia. Many people in the Charlottesville area believed her. After she died, researchers located the remains of her DNA in a Charlottesville hospital. They compared her DNA with that of members of the Romanov family in North America and Europe. The result was that she was not Anastasia and was not a member of the Romanov family. When one of her neighbors who believed strongly that she was Anastasia was told, he immediately responded, “I don’t believe it” and began to give several social (but not biological) reasons why the DNA test was inaccurate.

We reject facts every day when they do not confirm our long-held beliefs. No amount of evidence can convince us. If we do not believe something is possible, for us it is not possible. This is unfortunate because it closes us off from new knowledge, information, and resources. It is doubly unfortunate when it relates to people because we reject the humanity of another human. We reject the fact that God blesses people indiscriminately (Matthew 5:45). The Jewish establishment refused to acknowledge that this Galilean Jewish rabbi could actually do some good, no matter the outcome.

Too frequently we confuse persons with strong beliefs with persons with deep faith. Persons with strong beliefs must be heard, constantly affirm the tradition. They oppose innovation. They confess their loyalty to a loving, gracious God, but they themselves are unloving and ungracious. They own the center of the stage. When pressed, they always do what is expedient or what is convenient.

Whereas, people with deep faith affirm the tradition, but they are open to new perspectives and new methods without being threatened. They take to heart God’s amazing grace and his love and believe that they must mirror God’s grace and love in their own lives. They do not do what is expedient or convenient. They do what is right regardless of how it might look.

I call such Christians “river Christians,” persons of deep faith and deep commitment to the Church. The Church needs more river Christians who are gracious and loving, who do what is right and not what is expedient or convenient. The Church needs more people who celebrate goodness and righteousness wherever it may be found.


PRAYER OF THE DAY

God of miracles,

Sometimes we are slow to believe in your power, even when your miracles occur all around us each and every day. Open our eyes to see and our hearts to believe. Amen.

HYMNS

I’ve just come from the fountain (trad.)
On my heart imprint your image   ELW 811
Go, my children, with my blessing   ELW 543

CHORAL

There is a balm, trad.