Today’s reading from The Journey is from John 9:26-41. It concludes this week’s reading of chapter 9, in which we find the story of Jesus healing the man who was born blind (see this post). This story is placed in stark contrast to the scene in chapter 8 where Jesus debates his identity with the religious leaders.
It seems that what John does here is say, “The religious leaders think they “see,” or understand God clearly, but the truth is that this man, who was born blind, whom the religious leaders think is steeped in sin, sees more clearly than they ever will.”
Wow. That’s a pretty harsh statement, and, as a religious leader myself, it would be pretty hard to hear some uneducated dude from a backwater town say something like that about me, especially in public. It is no wonder that the religious leaders wanted to silence (kill) Jesus. He was a threat to their authority and to their very identity.
Yesterday, I had a conversation with Patrick Keifert, one of the most brilliant theologians I’ve ever met. He said something that was very important for me to hear as a neo-Lutheran theologian. A central tenet of Lutheran theology is that God is hidden and the only knowledge of God that we can actually have is through the cross of Jesus (see this post). The hiddenness of God is for our protection, he said. It sets boundaries around the task of theology. Our job, as teachers and leaders of the church, is not to explain God or to build massive theological constructs that make complete sense out of the universe. First of all, that is impossible. Secondly, if we think we can do that, it would lead to either idolatry or blasphemy. It is idolatry when we take our own ideas about God and say, “see, there is God.” It is blasphemy when we take something that God is doing in the world and say, “see, there is the work merely of human ingenuity or the godless forces of nature.”
The real task of the theologian is to walk alongside the blind man and marvel at the works of God in Jesus and say, “I don’t understand this, but let me reflect on what has happened and worship Jesus for what he has done.”
We are all theologians to some degree, because we all have ideas about God. Therefore, it would be wise for us all to take Jesus’ words to heart in the final verse of this passage. “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘we see,’ your sin remains.”
This is a helpful reminder to me, and I hope to you. We should never carry our theological perspectives (meaning those things that I think are absolutely right that prove that you are absolutely wrong) too tightly or like a big stick. Yes, we should reflect deeply on how we observe God at work in the world through the testimony of scripture and the movements of society, both in the micro and macro level. Yes, we should write and speak and even debate these things. But, at the end of the day, we must always confess our blindness.
We know God through the foolish cross of Christ. When we see that, the light shines for ALL.
What do you think? In what ways do we tend to be like the religious leaders who claim to see God clearly, but are really blind?