The story of the man born blind in the Gospels is pretty well known. We often think of it as a demonstration of how clueless the disciples were concerning spiritual things–Actually having the audacity to ask Jesus whose sin was responsible for making him blind.
What kind of jerky theology would hold people accountable for their disabilities?
Well . . . The Bible.
I know that it makes us feel really compassionate to read this passage and think, “Well, DUH. Of course no one was responsible.” But that may be us reading through the lenses of our American Christian Goggles more than anything else.
The question the disciples asked Jesus was actually pretty legit. We probably don’t think of it that way because we have never had a well rounded Bible lesson on this topic.
Both Old and New Testaments draw a correlation between our overall health and our choices. (Deut 28: 15-35, Psalm 119:67, John 5:8, 9, 14, 1 Cor 11:29-30).
That is not to say that every time someone gets hurt, sick, or is born with some disability that its because they sinned (sinning before you are born? Don’t expect an answer from me about that . . . I have no idea.)
What I am pointing out, however, is that we have probably overused this passage (along with Job) to relieve ourselves from taking responsibility where we should have. It’s become our Go-To-Scripture of defense as for why sometimes things just, “happen.” Our Ol’ Stand-By used for knocking down straw men that we erect. Like the commonly referred to fanatical preacher who accuses sick people of not repenting for their sins . . . You know . . . The one who no one really seems to have ever actually met . . . Or know the name of . . . Or . . . Come to think of it, know anything about other than that he’s out there–lurking.
It is true that with this instance in the Gospel of John, the man had not sinned. It’s also true that neither had Job. But the rest of the Bible has a whole lot more to say on this subject than just these stories. We often ignore passages that are clear and addressed to a broad audience (us) in favor of uncertain applications that are forcefully deduced from biblical accounts.
This is a practice in Bible interpretation that continues to bewilder me. We take an event that occurred once or twice, and we set it up as the Golden Standard by which we will evaluate any similar situation happening now or moving forward . . . Which, I wouldn’t completely disagree with if we were actually consistent with it. But we’re not. Both Job and the blind man were healed. If we are going to use this as some sort of template for our own suffering, then we must expect to be healed . . . But we don’t.
In the scientific community, this is what they would refer to as, wonky science. A little bit fishy. A little sloppy. And wreaks of a doctrine that was arrived at by emotion, and not actual Scripture.
As previously stated, not saying every suffering person out there is an evil sinner. Only that the Scriptures give us a little bit more responsibility in these matters than we often care to accept.