Why Your Suffering May Be Your Fault

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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 due to an individual’s sin.

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.” The 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,  I’m 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.

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Will the Real Bible Answer Man Please Stand Up?

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As a younger, slightly more naive Christian, I used to be critical of pastors and Bible teachers who would preach the same messages over and over again. They had a binder or notebook with all the sermons they had written over the years, and instead of coming up with anything new, they’d just cycle through that book.

I’d think to myself, “hasn’t this guy got anything new? I want a fresh revelation. Some new wine for the new wine skins (whatever that means). Something I’ve never heard before. A different take on a commonly known Bible verse,  maybe. If this guy had a closer relationship with God, he would have a Word for today.”

Now, after being both a student and teacher of the Bible for some years, I find I have a growing respect for ministers who teach the, “same old, same old.”

Here’s why:

The Bible is a Big Book. The more I study it, the less I think I know about it. Sure, I could be like most and take a plethora of Bible commentaries from the same denominational point of view and its pretty easy to convince myself I’ve got it figured out. But when I stand back and have a long, honest look at the Bible, I realize there is little that I am willing to take a definitive stance on.

Contrary to much criticism I’ve received about this, I can’t, in good conscience, bring myself to believe that I’ve got the, “right” position on all—or even most Bible passages.

I’m afraid that our appetite for, “something new” and discontentment with the unknown has contributed to a culture of Christians who feel the need to have all the blanks filled in. A nice, evenly distributed sphere of doctrine. And of course, being the humans that we are, those blanks will be filled in differently depending on the reader. The result? Church splits and denominational divides abound.

It seems to me that we are Jack of all Trades and Masters of None. Except we don’t like uncertainty because we think it makes us vulnerable, so we parade as Masters of all.

Ultimately, I can’t speak for anyone but myself.  Like many, I have portrayed myself as knowing more than I actually did. And  have led many astray with random, off-the-top-of-my-head explanations of Scriptures because I didn’t want to ruin my image as The Bible Answer Man (eat your heart out, Hanky).

Now a days, there are a handful of Bible subjects I teach.  People who have known me for years  can tell you, I never really move on to anything else.

Honest Truth?

I don’t really know what I believe about water baptism. I’m uncertain where I come down on the ideas of predestination, election and free will. And I really have no idea what to think about the book of Revelation. You would be surprised how upset Christians get when you tell them you don’t have a view or an opinion on every Bible verse. “What?! You can’t just NOT have an opinion. You’re ignoring God’s Word, that’s what you’re doing!”

Sigh . . .

Don’t get me wrong, I could erect  a lofty position and then hold to it for dear life, unconsciously hoping that my dedication somehow makes it true . . .  Like I suspect many others are doing. I could give you my own opinion and jazz it up with terminology like,  “proper hermeneutic”, “contextual implication” and my personal favorite, “God told me . . .” But what good does that do?

I study. I pray. I’m open to venturing into other areas of the Word, but common sense tells me my chances for error drastically  increase as I push and push for a monopoly on the Scriptures.

Experience has taught me that one of the most authentic answers you will ever receive concerning Bible doctrine is, “Humph! . . . I don’t know.” And we should be okay with that. It should not bother us if there are, “loose ends.” Let’s not allow mainstream Christianity to pressure us into being dogmatic about things that, deep down, we are still questioning.

In a nutshell? Not that the truth can’t be known (it certainly can be) but that we should be willing to consider the very likely and sobering thought that we don’t yet know it.