4th Sunday of Lent, Year A
John 9: 1-41
What Do We Know For Sure?
I think God is trying to tell me something. A few days ago in America Magazine I read, “My therapist is helping me deal with people simply and directly, rather than analyzing their potential hidden motivations. This makes most people far easier to treat with love.” I’m always on the defensive, trying to read people’s motives so I don’t inadvertently get stuck in drama or, worse, feel used. So, in a nutshell, I don’t do this. Which had me wondering, do I really love people or who they are? Or do I treat them based on my thoughts and interpretations?
Then I read the story of the man born blind. Buried deep in that story, the man responds to the Pharisees who are trying to use the man’s words to accuse Jesus of a crime. He says, “If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see” (v.25).
The man could see. He didn’t know if Jesus was a sinner, and he wasn’t claiming otherwise. All he did was report on what he knew, which was he had not been able to see, and now he could thanks to Jesus. Jesus was doing good.
I need to do that more often. Not claim anything but what I know for sure. Not try to speculate on anyone’s motives. Just accept things for what they are. Because the heart gets at people’s motives, and “man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart” (1Samuel 16:7) In short, I can’t see people’s motives. Only God can.
Of course, it’s not straightforward—life never is. Motives are revealed by repeated actions, and after we’ve been burned once, we don’t want to repeat the experience. In that case when we judge, at least we do so on evidence, not interpretation. But we still have to be wary about assigning inner motivation. We just don’t know the cause. We can’t. We’re not omnipotent.
So, what can we do? We can be present. We can listen without judging (so hard!), without suggesting a solution (just as hard!). We can find something to affirm, however small, or something to be curious about. Didactic statements shut people down. Questions open, they invite relationship, they nudge. And they allow the Holy Spirit to nudge through us.
There is no one right way to God, and I think people forget that sometimes. In our zeal to do His work, we want to offer an easy answer: “Do this, not that.” Sometimes it seems like the church forgets it too. Sometimes it takes going a seemingly wrong direction, going down the other path, to finally meet the person who listens, who circles us back to God, to a real and personal relationship with Him. That’s what clears the mud out of our eyes and finally allows us to see. Really, the only thing we know for sure is that God is love, and because of that great love, He gave us His only begotten Son. Real relationship is the way that love is revealed to us, which is why God sent Jesus to us—to give us a hands-on experience with real love.