Blurred Identity John 9:1-11

No one else sees this man until Jesus sees him because of his particular malady and social stigma that keeps people from seeing him for who he really is.  If they see him, what they see is not him; they see a blind man while Jesus sees a man born blind.  John uses irony to get his reader to see the man who can see, sees the man who can’t see; in seeing the man who can’t see, he lets us see God sees.

This man is like any us who think we would not be missed by anyone, since we don’t appear to be much to anyone, anyway.  Person’s identities can be misshaped by internalizing how others see them.  They think of themselves as a defect, victim; or the sum of their failures because that is how everyone else seems to sees them.  Eventually, their identity is warped as they’re unable to see beyond their own difficulty.

I have tried to underline throughout this series that asks the question who am I, that our identities are stamped with image of God.  God breathed the divine wind into the first human to make us God’s own; a child of God who is capable of doing the good works of God in the world.  What God meant at creation when God said, “It is good!” was what God made in the beginning was good and will always be good.

We spend a lifetime in a sinful world chipping away at the good work of God.  God spends our lifetime trying to restore what we mar by loving us back into relationship.  Jesus came into the world to open up our blurry eyes, so we might see who we are through the eyes of God.  The way to clear up our blurry vision about our own identities is to read the stories of Jesus from the inside out.  John does not tell us the man’s name, so we might fill in our name.  So, walk into this story with an open minds and willing hearts; hoping to see clearly what God is doing in our lives, so we may have a clearer picture how God sees us as we are a child of God.

The story starts by Jesus refusing to engage in a dead-end discussion about cause when asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?”  He knows are tendency to rush to cause when we encounter problems; a fruitless pursuit that changes nothing.  What if the man’s father had smoked three packs a day and mom drank a fifth each Friday, the man would still be blind.  It’s enough for parents to have a child born with real challenges visible or invisible, without piling on with theological speculation about fault.  The more productive approach is to be open to what God can do in our difficult and perplexing situations.

Jesus says this man’s blindness had nothing to do with sin.  Jesus says, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind SO THAT God’s works might be revealed in him.”  One way to take SO THAT is to say God made the man blind, so that God might be revealed in the man.  God doesn’t need darkness to show light.  Light is God’s creative work, for God said, “Let there be light” before anything existed except God.  A man born into darkness isn’t God’s creative work.  A man born blind falls into the mystery, which we do not understand well enough to say anything more than God is good and God can redeem any challenge in our lives.  The more constructive way to interpret Jesus’ SO THAT is to understand what God might do through this man’s blindness.  Jesus attends to what is left of this man’s identity, instead of what is missing in his identity.

Jesus spits on the ground, grabs a handful of mud, and rubs it on the man’s eyes.  Jesus doesn’t say anything or lay hands and pray.  Instead, he offers him home-baked meds and tells him to wash in the pool of Siloam.  John says the name of the pool means SENT.  It is the Latin word “missio”, which we get our wordMISSION.  This tells us God makes known the work of God in our lives, no matter how dark life may seem.  We see more clearly the work of God in our lives and understand how God sees our identities when we are in mission with God in the world.  God is always up to something in shaping our identity.  We will see that more clearly when we are walking in God’s purposes of loving God and neighbor, both in times when God is changing things and when nothing seems to change.

Sometimes what God is up to in our lives is to shape our identity by dramatically changing the difficulty we are facing.  There are times we get to witness God fully restoring or transforming our identity in the midst of a challenging condition.  Sometimes we experience miracles.  Our 21st century world has made people of faith fearful to make this claim because we live in a world that prefers rational explanations than supernatural interruptions.  Sometimes it’s a miracle; we should not be afraid to give God the glory when something inexplicable happens.  We can still strive to understand something while at the same time calling it a miracle.  God can change the circumstances of our lives and change us.  When that happens we call it what it is and give God the glory for making our identity new.

Sometimes what God is up to in our lives is to shape our identity by not changing anything about the difficulty we face.  We hear people speak of their unchanging suffering situation as a way for God to show divine wonders through their affliction.  I will not correct a person who is bearing up under such a burden and makes this claim.  We can truly know certain things only by going through them.  We who haven’t suffered much ought to be slow to speak with certainty about such things because it is a place where there’s no company; nobody can necessarily follow a person there.

We have observed how person’s faith does not change when something remains resistant to change despite longsuffering pleas to God.  What does change in those who live long with a tremendous challenge is what they believe about whom they are and what is happening to them as they reside in an abiding struggle.  We don’t claim faith so we might know supernatural remedies for all our problems.  That is a selfish faith that finds little roots in the soil of life.  Faith is claimed in our lives, so we might experience the supernatural regardless what changes or what stays the same.

For example, some suffering is useful to us and to God.  Suffering can be more instructive than a long trip to the Holy Land.  Sometimes what God is up to in our lives is to bring about work that would not happen if our vision had not been blocked by the distressing condition so we might see clearly what might be because of this struggle.  It is in this place where we can experience God’s best mercies beyond normal routine of lives

I have not known much affliction.  I wait my turn, learning from those who have learned from Jesus and this blind man.  I have watched people walk this road, allowing the work of God to shape them for the better by the grace of God.  So in the meantime, I try to sharpen my vision by gleaning from nicks of flesh and spirit in my life.  We all need to be ready to interpret Jesus’ SO THAT, by being able to see more clearly what God is doing in our lives when we experience greater tests.  This happens in many ways.

Consider what happens when a person is diagnosed with a disease that needs funds for a cure.  We are mobilized to donate funds for research.  A friend learned he was diagnosed withHutchinson’s disease and it would likely affect his two children.  For several years, 100 of us would play 100 holes of golf in a single day for pledges made based on how many holes we would complete in the allotted time.  To keep us honest donations were higher for lower scores.  A diagnosis can produce a lot of good works for lots of people; giving purpose so suffering becomes redemptive for others.

Not all circumstances that blur our identity need be physical sickness or disability.  Any difficult circumstance can imprint our identity with something we can carry into tomorrow.  Life experiences are our best teachers.  Think of experiences that caused your vision to be blurred for a season, but would shape us for better.  Charles Colson started Prison Fellowship after jail time because of the Watergate scandal.  Recovering alcoholics help other alcoholics recover.  Those who have known grief over a lost child or a suicide help others going through the same things.

Things don’t have to have to be difficult to clear up blurred vision.  People returning from the recent Holy Landexcursion will tell stories how they now know there were things they didn’t see clearly before the trip.  After experiencing the places where stories of faith unfolded, they see things differently, including themselves.  You do not have to travel thousands of miles for this to happen.  Those who shared ashes at the train station as well as those who serve neighbor near or in a mission field abroad are equally participating in mission.  Serious life challenges, far reaching excursions, simple circumstances, or daily life can equally open our eyes and clear up our blurry vision if we are looking for the work of God in them.

God wants to open our eyes to see the way Jesus sees us.  We don’t have to wait till things worsen to have your eyes opened.  We simply need to be willing to wash in the pool of Siloam; dive into mission; become immersed in the work of God.  Blind faith is never sufficient.  We will not see clearly without a life of mission.  This is the key to clearing up blurred identities.  In the end our ultimate hope is to give glory to God who helps us see more clearly the hand of God in our lives and thus we see more clearly how God sees us, whether it is in the midst of strenuous suffering or a routine day.  Have you washed in the Pool of Mission!  Do so today!

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Published in: on March 19, 2012 at 4:20 pm  Comments (2)  

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  1. In an effort not to “steal” an image from the internet, I am wondering if I can get your permission to use a photo on this entry as a model for a painting I’d like to do. Please email me so I can let you know about it.


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