Friday, February 27, 2009

Was Blind, But Now I See

My wife and I have been looking at John 9 this week in preparation for our small group bible study. This is early in Jesus ministry where He heals the blind man near the pool of Siloam. A question that came to mind was: why didn’t Jesus just heal the blind man physically and spiritually at the same time? Why did he allow the blind man to go through all the trouble of being interrogated by the fellow townspeople and the Pharisees?

Having been blind from birth, the blind man knew nothing but darkness, both physically and spiritually. It seems apparent in later verses (18-23) that his parents never provided any spiritual teaching to their son other than Jewish law and tradition. In their fear of being expelled from the synagogue they punted right back to their son when confronted about his healing. Jesus had to allow the man to go through a barrage of interrogation in order that all the skepticism could be quashed. The blind man finally got there in verses 25, 30-33.

25 The man replied, "I don't know if he is a sinner or not. All I know is that I used to be blind, but now I can see!"
30 "How strange!" the man replied. "He healed my eyes, and yet you don't know where he comes from.
31 We know that God listens only to people who love and obey him. God doesn't listen to sinners.

32 And this is the first time in history that anyone has ever given sight to someone born blind.
33 Jesus could not do anything unless he came from God."
(Contemporary English Version)

Even the Pharisees came to a point when they could no longer deny that a miraculous healing had occurred, which is why they resorted to attacking the blind man personally. They had no intention of extending any grace to the blind man, so they accused him of hypocrisy and threw him out of the temple (v. 34). I think the man’s heart was finally changed in this moment. Jesus’ grace went beyond just the physical healing and He came back to the man later; after the man’s heart became ready to receive Him; and extended to him the grace of salvation. The blind man was finally healed of his spiritual blindness.

The light bulb lit up for me today, or to quote Chef Emeril Lagasse, “Bam!!! The Lord hit me hard with these questions today:
How often do I refuse to extend the same kind of grace?
How often to I refuse to be “spiritually enlightened” because I’m to pig headed and self-absorbed to look beyond my own view and see the grace of God?

I was blind, but now I see! Thank you Jesus!!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Forgiveness Revisited?

One day a few years ago, I was listening to a talk radio program similar to Focus on the Family, where they have a guest who had written a book or had some amazing testimony. The guest was a woman (Sonia Jacobs?) who years ago, along with her husband had been convicted of a murder they didn’t commit and they were subsequently sentenced to death. As I recall the story (and I could me misremembering some facts) both of them went through years of appeals to no avail and eventually the husband was executed. After this some facts that would exonerate both of them were uncovered. At this point the woman’s death sentence was commuted, but she remained in prison. Some years later the evidence was looked at and she won her appeal and release from prison, fully exonerated. However, the damage had already been done; her husband executed and the prime years of her life wasted away in prison. After telling her story and answering some questions about it, she was asked by the radio host asked how she was able to find it in her heart to forgive.

Good question! How could one possibly find a way to forgive anyone, let alone God for such a terrible and extreme injustice? Though I don’t recall everything she said I do recall one thing. She said she found that she has to revisit forgiveness.” I was intrigued by her answer and I’ve often thought about it, but I’ve never really analyzed the idea until recently. The question that comes to my mind is: if you forgive those who wrong you in some way, why would you have to revisit forgiveness? When God forgave us, did he not cast our sin into the depths of the sea? Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18-19)

Again, I’ve never had something as horrific as the above example happen to me, but like anyone, I’ve had my share of injustices, including a mean and abusive Dad. After spending the majority of my adult life hating him for his mistreatment of me, I made a trip home to Ohio in June 2000 for the purpose of forgiving him. The only hitch was that my Dad was in the final stage of Alzheimer’s disease and would have no clue that I was even there. I went to the nursing home and spoke the words of forgiveness out loud. However, I don’t think that in my heart I truly forgave him and here’s why I say that.

Over the next few years, each time I had thoughts about my Dad and my childhood I would become angry. I continued to blame my current difficulties on my mistreatment by him. It wasn’t until spring of 2004 during a one on one talk with God that I let it go. He reminded me that His forgiveness of me was neither conditional nor temporary. Christ went to the cross so that we might all be forgiven permanently. God doesn’t “revisit” forgiveness nor does he ever remind us of our old sins. It’s just done and over with!

So the lesson for me is that if I find myself “revisiting” forgiveness, then I need to examine my heart and ask God to help me forgive permanently just as He does. I can now have memories of my Dad with a heart of total forgiveness. I no longer “rehash” the mistreatment. God gave me His eyes through which to see my Dad. Too bad it was well after my Dad was gone.