“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Friday, April 01, 2005

We must work the works: John 9:3-5

Nearly a year ago, I related the following in a blog entry:

John 9:3-5 says,
"Neither this man or his parents sinned" said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work" (NIV).

Jesus said this in response to his disciples asking about a blind man they encountered, "Who sinned, this man or his parents?" They were wondering who's sin caused the blindness.

Merril C. Tenney, the Bible scholar wrote that this passage might be translated in a different way. Here is Tenney's translation.
"Neither did this man sin, nor his parents" said Jesus. "But that the works of God should be made manifest in him, we must work the works of him that sent me, while it is still day; the night cometh when no man can work."

One of Tenney's points with his translation is that the works of God are made manifest in persons with disability by the things those around them do. The works of God were not made manifest solely through the healing of the man by Jesus. An interesting perspective to consider. An interesting plumb line for evaluating the response of the Church to persons with a variety of disabilities.

This morning, Kathi and I had the pleasure of having coffee with some friends who are parents of a daughter with down syndrome. They related the story of how their daughter will engage in a game of "keep away" with a couple of boys in the neighborhood. Invariably, the game becomes those two boys keeping the ball away from their daughter until the game finally ends. Independent of whether or not the gal with the disability recognizes that she is being taken advantage of in the game, it is obvious that those two boys are not working "the works of him that sent me while it is still day." Now its not that the boys are being particularly evil or something, but they certainly are not being kind to the girl. Working "the works of him that sent me" would probably look a lot less competitive in this case (I have nothing against competition), and reflect, I don't know, fairness, encouragement; evidences of works of God.

People with disability in our midst, provide us the opportunity to work the works of God. Don't hear me wrong. They are not in existence so that I might gain some brownie points with God. That would belittle the importance of their lives and accentuate the importance of my life. I see no evidence from scripture that I am to do either. However, as with the opportunity to help any person who needs it, the chance is provided to work the works of God. At times I will work the works and at other times I will receive the benefit of someone else working the works. The take home lesson, I believe, is that we are all surrounded by opportunities to serve others and we need to take advantage of those opportunities. We are all equal before God.

In response to a letter about his Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien penned the following,

Frodo indeed ‘failed’ as a hero, as conceived by simple minds: he did not endure to
the end; he gave in, ratted. I do not say ‘simple minds’ with contempt: they often see with clarity the simple truth and the absolute ideal to which effort must be directed, even if it is unattainable. there weakness, however, is twofold. They do not perceive the complexity of any given situation in Time, in which an absolute ideal is enmeshed. They tend to forget that strange element in the World that we call Pity or Mercy, which is also an absolute requirement in moral judgment (since it is present in the Divine nature). In its highest exercise it belongs to God (emphasis added) (From Carpenter & Tolkien (1981), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, #246, pp. 326)

There is a depth to the situations of my life. I may not be attending to the depth but it is there nonetheless.



audaciouslady said...

I am interested in knowing your opinion about the Terri Schiavo case and the passing of the pope with regards to the disabled community. I am the editor and founder of www.audacitymagazine.com and I would love to publish your thoughts on these two topics.
You can email me at nathasha@audacitymagazine.com

Anonymous said...

In response to this post, to me I feel that your underlying message is do not miss the oppurtinities to do what God has called us to do. Before taking this class, I had honestly not thought much about issues concerning persons with disabilities. I feel that I always have had a heart for persons with disabilities, but I have never taken any steps to be involved in these peoples' lives. Through our discussions in class and the visitation of your friends I realized just how "normal" they are and alot of their needs are similar to ours. They need friends, they need someone to hang with and someone to talk to. They need love just as we do. I think maybe I viewed their needs to be so much more complicated.
Addressing the phrase, "so that God's works may be manifested." It is obvious that God is all knowing, and He has a purpose for everything. I think that true acts of service to our Lord are those that are most difficult for us. I can see that working with those who have disabilities may seem uncomfortable and maybe difficult to some. But I believe that this is how we show our love for God and desire to serve is that we put away all of our selfish desires and go to places that may not be in our comfort zone. On a personal note, I am graduating in a month, and I am really facing the facts- what are you going to do with your life. I feel like I have a choice, to live my life selfishly doing what I want, or stepping out, being uncomfortable and unsure, but knowing that I am letting God take full control. I do NOT want to live my life selfishly. I want to complete "the works of the one who sent me." I feel like I have gone from one subject to the next, but I agree that we should take the opportunities to do God's work that He has placed in front of us. We are not just called to dwell in our Christian bubble together. I think that many people have forgotten why we are here.

Anonymous said...

In response to this article I see the inference in both the NIV translation and the translation made by Tenney that God’s work is prepared before hand so that at the right moment He will use specific people to bring about His glory. In this specific case God planned before hand to give this person a disability in his life so that through Jesus’ healing of this man’s life and body, in a miraculous way, the Father brings credibility to the Son. In viewing this passage through this perspective of being “prepared beforehand,” we come to understand that people with disabilities always have purpose. It may not necessarily always be as noble as giving the Son of God an opportunity to build credibility in a miraculous way, but the purpose is real. We are to respect all of His creation in the light of being made out of God’s love and specifically as human beings being made in the image of God. God works in miraculous ways through people who have shortcomings (everyone does) and He continuously places things in our lives to remind us of Him, to bring glory to himself through our submission to His will. This article brings forth this understanding of a deeper purpose for each life and situation in it. We need to take advantage of the opportunities God gives us, since we are given a special opportunity to please the creator of the universe in doing the little things Jesus talks about when he states I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matt 25:40).

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading this entry. I also found it spiritually challenging. I love that passage in scripture where the disciples show, yet again, that they misunderstand the nature of God, and Lord Jesus, yet again, works another miracle and leaves the perfect model of grace and mercy for us to follow. I am always blessed by that particular scripture because I think it has many layers of meaning, and yopu sighted a very interesting perspective. As follwers of Christ, we are called to emulate Him in the world, and we are to be His mercy and grace. I like the wasy you explored this important issue. Because we often put our focus on the miraculous healing that occurs from the encounters with Jesus, we are not looking closely enough at oursleves and how we are reflecting Him.

Anonymous said...

I think everyday we have opportunities to work the works of God in all of our experiences with all people. As you say that people with disabilities provide this opportunity, I have to agree, and even if we don't have people with disability in our midst we should be mindful that what we do (our behavior, attitudes, perceptions, our Christian light) can influence the people we do interact with in a positive way. So the opportunity to serve others happens all the time-I believe that what we do may serve as a model for others. Maybe if the people we interact with (even if we don't know them well, or briefly meet) will take some of that light and share it with someone that they know with a disability.
Elizabeth Ryan