Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Cancel Culture in Jesus Day

One of my favorite Bible stories is found in John 9. As I reread the passage this morning, I realized this thing we call "cancel culture" has been around a long time and this story sadly bears witness to the fact that when Jesus walked the earth He, too, bore witness to it.

The story began when Jesus and His disciples passed a man who had been born blind. The disciples asked Jesus if the man's blindness was due to his own sin or to the sin of his parents. Jesus turned to His disciples and addressed their false belief--a belief quite common at the time and sadly one that sometimes still resurfaces. He explained to them that the man's blindness was not a result of his sin or his parent's sin, but that the man was born blind so the works of God might be displayed in him.

Jesus then spit on the ground and made mud with His saliva and anointed the blind man's eyes with it. Jesus told him to go wash in the Pool of Siloam. The blind mad made his way to the pool and washed the mud from his eyes. When he lifted his face from the water and opened his eyes, he could see. I can't imagine what it was like for a man who had never had eyesight to all of a sudden see faces, a blue sky dotted with light grey clouds, green fields dotted with white sheep, trees filled with an array of brightly colored singing birds, and all sorts of wild flowers growing along the water's edge.

As he walked back to his own neighborhood, the man wasn't met with joyful celebration like we might expect. Instead, he was met with skepticism. People weren't even courteous enough to directly ask the man questions. Nope, as he walked by, they asked each other if he was the blind beggar or someone who looked a lot like him. Ironically, the questions not directed to him, but spoken within ear shot give us a pretty good glimpse of how he had been treated most of his life as a handicapped person--he was one deemed "less than them" and "unworthy" of their direct interaction. Jesus may well have been the first person to speak directly to him. The once-blind man looked them in the eyes for the first time and acknowledged who he was and how he received his sight.

The man's neighbors took him to the Pharisees because he had been healed on the Sabbath. Apparently making mud from saliva on the Sabbath to heal someone was considered sinful work instead of God's work. The Pharisees asked the man questions and he gave them an outline version of his story--short and to the point. In response the Pharisees told him Jesus was a sinner because he didn't keep the Sabbath. They then asked him what he thought of Jesus and he simply replied, "He is a prophet."

The Jews did not want to believe the miracle so they called the man's parents in and asked them three questions. "Is this your son?" "Was he born blind?" "And, how did he receive his sight?" The parents acknowledged their son and stated that he was born blind. They looked around the crowd of stern Pharisees and told them they didn't know how he had received his sight. They then absolved themselves of any responsibility to the matter by saying that they should direct their question to their son because he was an adult. They were afraid of the Jews because the Jews had made it known that anyone who believed in Jesus would be put out of the synagogue--they didn't want to experience the ugly cancel culture of their day.

So, the once-blind man was brought back and they tried to get him to claim that God alone had healed him, not Jesus, which tells us they didn't recognize Jesus as the Messiah. The blind man answered their questions again and they accused him of being Jesus' disciple rather than Moses', pointing out they didn't even know where Jesus came from. The man scanned the sea of angry faces and his gaze landed on his parents' fearful faces and said, "Why, this in as amazing thing! You do not know where He comes from, and yet He opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." And that testimony got him thrown out of the synagogue.

I love that it was their persistent questions that were so carefully formulated to cast doubt on Jesus that actually lead the man to a deeper understanding of Jesus. I love that their manipulation didn't trap him, but empowered him to speak the truth. I also love it that he didn't succumb to their gaslighting ways and trade his truth for a lie.

When Jesus heard the man He had healed was cast out of the synagogue, He found him and sat down beside him. Through a different kind of conversation, Jesus revealed to Him that He was the One who had healed him. He then told him who He was and the man responded, "Lord, I believe!" And, in that place he became a worshiper of the Son of God. Jesus then said, "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind." That last part was aimed at those who were spiritually blind and had cast the man out of the synagogue. 

I have always wanted to know this man's name. I think it interesting that the people never used his name when they asked him questions. It is also interesting that John, who penned this account, didn't tell us his name either. Maybe it was because we are all him in the sense that we are born spiritually blind and that it is only by faith in Jesus that we receive spiritual sight and can begin to understand the things of God, which are spiritually discerned.

As Jesus disciples, I hope we remember two things from this story. First, there is a purpose behind the infirmities and suffering we see in people around us or that we ourselves experience. That man we know born blind, that woman born barren, that child born deaf, that grandma that is limping through life, that aunt struggling with ongoing clinical depression are all people through whom God can be glorified--maybe though a miracle of healing or maybe through an even bigger miracle that creates in us a changed heart filled with such deep compassion that we lean to love as radically as Jesus loves.

Secondly, as believers, we will face situations in which we have to speak God's truth into people's lives, running the risk of facing the wrath of our own cancel culture. It is my prayer that, as believers, we will stand firm in our faith, speak God's bold truth seasoned with grace, and continuously shine light into this dark world, May we stand firm even in the face of the very loud, clamoring, hate-filled, divisive voices all around us.

May we remember that even though our culture may cancel us, our Jesus never will. I imagine after every spiritual battle we face in this life time we have Jesus sitting beside us just as he sat by the once-blind man, His voice ever reminding us who He is and who we are in relationship with Him. Just sit quietly in midst of the cancel culture's screaming voices...can you hear His voice? It's the one filling you with love, with peace, and with hope.

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!