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Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year A;

March 2, 2005

John 9:1-13(14-27)28-38

We all struggle with the paradox of sin and suffering. Jesus is clearly disputing the theology that all suffering is a direct result of one’s own sin.

No doubt, sin leads to suffering, but not always to one’s own suffering. Corporate and systemic sin cause the suffering of others. Other sins such as murder, stealing, and adultery are sinful specifically because they hurt others.

But here’s the real logical leap: if one’s sins can lead to one’s own suffering, then their suffering must be caused by their sins. Try telling that one to those identified as the Dalit in India, for example. Their suffering is clearly caused not by their own sins nor by their parents’ sins, but by the sins of others. Jesus is clearly disputing that kind of theology in this passage.

In fact, Jesus is telling the church leaders that they are indeed more blind than the blind man in question. Their blindness is in judging a person they do not even know before asking him who he is. Their blindness is in looking for sin in all the wrong places. They see sin where there is none, and they see nothing where sin really exists.

Are our churches guilty now of focusing only on where we perceive sin, and ignoring sin that we can’t deal with? Are we guilty of focusing too sharply on some specific issues while ignoring the genocide in Darfur, economic policies that perpetuate the poverty of others, human rights violations, and global bullies picking on global runts?

In her excellent book God Christ Church, Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki writes, “throughout all the forms of sin considered there runs a single thread: sin is based upon and requires a distortion of the nature of existence.” To the the church leaders in this story, the blind man was not a man at all, but a picture of sin and its consequences. This runs counter to the ultimate Jewish and Christian confession that humanity was created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27) and that God looked and saw that everything created was “very good.” (Gen. 1:31).

Wouldn’t we all be better off if we treated others, even those we suspect of sin, as if we actually believed they were created in God’s image?

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