As he walked along, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”- John 9:1-5
Is someone to be blamed for all this pain and suffering? The Book of Job grappled with this question. Job’s friends tried to convince him that he was responsible for his predicaments. It was because of sin in his life, they said. Job answered that no one is truly innocent and therefore no one can really approach God with clean hands and hearts on his own merit. Yet, Job still believed that a grave injustice was done to him. He wanted an answer from God.
The question is repeated in the gospel text above. Who is responsible for this man’s blindness? This was the question. Why do we need to know who is to be blamed? I guess it is because in our minds, we think that we should only help those who deserve to be helped and not waste our time with those who brought suffering upon themselves by their actions. This is the way the world thinks and the apostles wanted to know what Jesus’ thoughts were on this matter. The answer Jesus gave them was actually quite disturbing.
Jesus said, “he was born blind so that God’s work might be revealed in him.”
Is Jesus saying that this man suffered all his life with blindness just so that God could be glorified? Is God so cruel as to allow people to suffer most of their life so that He looks good in the end? This God would not be the good news for any one especially the poor and the needy. I cannot tell the homeless children that they are orphaned and abandoned because God wants to glorify His Name. I would have no message for these homeless people if we believe in such a God.
Jesus was not trying to answer to question of suffering and pain. Jesus was addressing the question of blaming the victim. I have heard people speak against giving drug addicted homeless children and adults food because they might use the money they have leftover to buy drugs instead of food. We are concerned about whether the poor deserve our sympathy and compassion so much so that we forget that there might be a deeper spiritual purpose for the presence of the poor. Maybe God allows this suffering and pain to exist in this world so that it would be an opportunity for us to participate in the divinity of God by being His instrument of Love.
Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34)
We should not despair that the world has problems and sufferings. It is part of the living in this tragic fallen world. These things are a constant reminder to us that God is not done with this world yet. The peace that He promised has yet to come to full bloom. However, it is time for those who are called and set aside to be His instruments to reach out to those who are despised and forgotten. It is not our role to figure out whether the people we are helping are worthy of love and compassion. Most likely, they are not worthy of it just like us. God loved us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). Now, it is our chance to reveal the unconditional love of God to those who suffer in this world.
In the Book of Job, the friends of Job were reproved because they failed to show compassion to the one who was suffering. As Christians, God calls us not to throw up our arms and despair in the face of pain and suffering in this world; He asks us to go into the world and face these situations in order to reveal the unconditional love of God.
Jesus was not saying that God made the man blind so that he would be glorified. Jesus is saying that his blindness, which is a tragic circumstance of Life, is an opportunity to reveal a greater force of Love that exists in this world.