Bob Chell, Sioux Falls, SD
Who are blind to the obvious today? Politically? Spiritually?
We often see what we expect to see and miss other things because we are not looking for them. A famous experiment illustrates this. A group of people is passing balls around. Observers are asked to count the number of passes made. During the time the group is passing the balls around, a person in a gorilla suit walks into the group, struts around, then moves away. About half the observers say they did not see a gorilla. If observers are told about the gorilla and the experiment is repeated, most see the gorilla–but miss other things which are obvious if you are looking for them. You can see an illustration of this experiment here. Watch the video if you have internet access.
- Does this video shake your certainty of who is blind to the obvious today? If not, why not? If so, how so?
- Can we ever be certain of anything?
- How do faith and certainty differ?
Fourth Sunday of Lent
(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.
For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.
This long story in John is a favorite of mine, not only for its content but for the way it is constructed. At the beginning the man born blind is blind, meek and frightened while the religious leaders are bold and confident, but as the story progresses, ever so subtly, the roles are reversed. This is most clear when the once meek man mocks those questioning him, asking, “Do you also want to become his disciples?” Those in charge are now on the defensive and, unable to defend their view, they dismiss the man born blind in anger.
Today both those on the political left and right, like those in this gospel lesson, are certain their views are correct. Committed Christians on both sides base their convictions on their faith. What does the Bible have to say about this?
For those with eyes to see and ears to hear the message of this story is clear, “I may be wrong.” Those aren’t easy words for those of us who care about our faith, our country and our world. Are we supposed to shrug our shoulders and turn away from serious issues in our world and in our life?
I don’t think so. However, I do think that we should enter conversations with the awareness that we may be mistaken. Lest you think I am taking one story and overstating its message, take the Bible as a whole. You will find that those who are most certain, who are positive about what is right and how God would have them do things are usually wrong. They stone the prophets, they oppose Jesus; they judge, rather than love, their neighbor.
Christians have been on opposite sides of political and religious issues from the beginning. A large part of the book of Acts is a church fight about who can join and what the requirements are to be a Christian. In the 1800s Christians argued about whether slavery was a part of God’s plan with those supporting slavery quoting verses like Ephesians 6:5 (“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ…”) or Colossians 3:22 (“Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything, not only while being watched and in order to please them, but wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.”). Those opposing slavery pointed to Galatians 3:28 (“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”).
Today all Christians believe slavery is not a part of God’s plan or God’s will for humankind. However, what’s obvious to us was not so obvious to Christians of the 1800s.
More recently Christians have argued about the role of women in the church, sexual orientation, and sexual identity, often going to the Bible, not to discern where God might be leading us, but to support their convictions.
We do need to engage, debate, and even argue about the issues facing our church and our world. We need to do that by recognizing what is not obvious, that, as the Bible says, we are one in Christ. “So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another (Romans 12:5).” For a longer riff on this, read 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 where the apostle Paul goes on and on, like a bulldog, making the point that we are united in Christ. Like a Dad berating squabbling children, Paul drives the point home wanting us to know this is bedrock, non-negotiable.
Whatever your opinions and convictions, be mindful that it was those filled with doubt and questions who ultimately heard and followed God’s call: Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Esther, the list goes on and on.
- What is the “hot” issue in our world, in our country, in our community, our church, our school, our home?
- If picking a side and standing our ground isn’t the Christian way to approach controversy, how are we to approach it?
- Find someone in your group or class whose views differ from yours and argue with them—but switch sides, with you defending their view, and they yours.
- Sometimes outside pressure has enabled the church or our country to see our unity. Persecution united early Christians while Americans were galvanized by WW II. What are the forces pushing us to unity today?
Loving God, open our hearts and minds to hear your word and your will for our lives and for our world. We care deeply and feel powerless surrounded by those who have no doubts. Give us faith to trust you are with us as we work to do your will in our lives and in our world. Amen.