As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi,who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me. John 9:1-3
You probably know this story. Jesus and his disciples were passing by a man who was blind from birth. Have you ever thought of how rude it was for the disciples to ask, “Who sinned, this man or his parents?” Do you think the blind man heard this question?
We obviously can’t know, but the question betrays a couple of important things. First, some of the Jews of Jesus’ day thought that illness and other disasters were God’s payback for sin. As we all know, many Christians think that, too. To that point, Jesus says,”No. Neither this man nor his parents sinned.”
So Jesus rejects the idea that sin is the reason for sickness. That’s important to note as we live through the COVID-19 crisis. Racist remarks about where the virus originated only add to the massive problems we are facing. They feed into age-old tendencies to divide ourselves off from others, making sure we are in the “good group,” the “innocent group,” — the ones not to blame.
And that is the second observation from the disciples’ questions. Isn’t it such a human thing to look for someone or something to blame? As the saying goes, “To make a mistake is human, to blame someone else is more human.”
Blaming others or looking for someone to blame when things are going wrong is usually less productive than we might hope. In fact, getting caught up in who’s to blame often takes so much time, begins to have a life of its own, and somehow brings out the worst as we pile on with all our grievances. Yes, accountability is important for us all to live and thrive together, but we don’t want to miss the main point, which is always, as the story continues, “to do the work of God.”
Looking for someone to blame is only one of the ways that we can miss the main point. In times of stress it is easy to get off-track and lose focus. We are only human, and we do not know how to do everything perfectly.
But we are not alone. We live in God’s love, and we are in that love together. As we join our hearts, returning again and again to the reality of living in God’s love, we will find a path to join with Jesus in doing the work of God.