Our text Sunday morning was the 9th chapter of John, which began with a question that has been asked by countless people who have drawn the crooked lot of disability:
“What went wrong?”
A man born with damaged eyes, unable to see the light around him, unable to participate in the life around him. Born to a life of limitation and hardship. Why? Who sinned?
Karma. That’s one of two dominant answers to the question. Often we feel that intense suffering in life is caused by some wrongdoing or fault in our past. Something that has come back around to make us pay. This was the view of the 1st century Jewish world—disability was a sign of guilt.
That view of suffering has gradually been overshadowed by the modern, scientific view. Chaos. Why did this happen? Because it did. That’s just the way the genetic dice landed. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, it just is. In the inspiring words of Jean Paul Sartre, “Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness, and dies by chance.”
Are these our only choices, the only explanations for my daughter’s disability? The absurdity of chaos or the cruelty of karma?
Jesus drew a big red X over these answers in his response to the disciples:
“It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
Not karma or chaos. Purpose. Just like every other human being, this man was knit together in his mother’s womb by the hands of a wise and strong creator. A creator who had a gracious and glorious purpose in mind for this man.
Why was this man born blind? Because God had a plan. God had a plan to use a man on the margins of society, shut out of the inner circle of health, wholeness and righteousness. God was going to shine the light of Christ onto this man’s life and reveal to the world that we have it all backwards, inside-out.
Jesus used this man to reveal that the world has it all backwards, inside-out.
When the light came on and Jesus was revealed, he was not standing on the inside with the clean and whole religious leaders, where we would expect. He was out in the margins with the blind man, the unhealthy, broken “sinner.” He was outside of the circle, with the disabled ones, where people know that they are blind and in need of light. And He was calling the world to come join Him out there.
It may be a hard pill to swallow, that this man was born blind so that the works of God could be displayed. But in the end, I don’t think that man complained too much.
In the end he and I and Elizabeth and millions more will rejoice to see the glory of God’s works displayed through our lives. I’ll take that over chaos or karma, any day.
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown