Don’t have time to read today’s post? No worries, I got you covered. Listen HERE:
In the book of John Jesus healed a man who was born blind and then the Pharisees asked Him a profound question, which received an even more profound answer …
“Some of the Pharisees near Him heard this and said to Him, ‘Surely we are not blind, are we?”
They weren’t asking Him if they were physically blind, but if they were spiritually blind.
In other words …
We’re in the know, right?
Like, we’re doing everything right, right?
We’re obeying the Law, as you can clearly see … right?
We’re holding the people accountable to obeying, like we should be. RIGHT?
We’re on God’s good side.
Our eyes are open wide to the Truth.
“Jesus said to them”, John tells us, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”
I find this so incredibly interesting because this tells me that the biggest sin of the Pharisees wasn’t that they were jerks (and humungous jerks, many of them were), but that they believed that they clearly and flawlessly and perfectly understood God’s Kingdom and their role in it.
It’s what I call “The Sin of Certainty”.
(** I should note that “The Sin of Certainty” is a book by Peter Enns that I have yet to read. It may or may not be about the topic of this blog post. If it is (and it most likely is), he probably has much to add to this discussion so you should probably read it with me, it’s on my list for 2018.)
They had dedicated their lives to it.
They had studied it.
They had understood it.
They were the experts in it.
NObody could tell them or teach them otherwise.
They had NO reason to listen to anyone else.
They had NO reason to discuss anything with anyone.
They had NO reason to listen to someone else’s perspective.
They had no reason to think that maybe someone else had a better or more complete or more holistic understanding.
Because they were the experts, it was their way or no way, their way or the highway, their understanding or no understanding.
(Ever met a Christian like this? Me too. They usually hang out on Facebook.)
If anyone dared to try and tell them otherwise or push them too far or disagree too much or step too far over the line.
Then they’d have that person ridiculed, cast away, tossed aside, and perhaps even killed (just like they did to Jesus, mind you).
You see, for Jesus there is no sin in being blind.
Like, there’s no sin and no shame in having a lack of understanding or a lack of sight, being blind to something. There’s no sin in just being able to see 5 feet ahead, or not be able to see at all.
Like He said, “If you were blind you would not have sin.”
Because just as people who are blind often need a guide or a guide dog for assistance, so we (people who are blind) need the assistance of the Light in order to properly see.
We can’t walk on our own.
We can’t see on our own.
We can’t make out everything around us with 100% perfection.
… We can see and make it from point A to point B only with the help of our Guide, Jesus.
And so in Jesus’ metaphor, those who claimed to see had FORGOTTEN how to depend on God for their sight. The Pharisees constructed their view of the Torah and their view of the world and their view of their religion and spirituality so that they understood everything and had it all systematized and figured out and only needed God for their devotion, Someone to pray to and worship.
In their mind …
They already knew.
They already understood.
They already saw.
… And they didn’t need Jesus’ help or perspective, thank you very much.
Their sin, then, was focusing on their own interpretation of God, their own interpretation of God’s Kingdom, their own interpretation of theology, rather than on God Himself (who was standing right in front of them in the person of Jesus). They were so locked in on their own perspective and on their own way of doing things and understanding things that they didn’t recognize the very God they thought they were defending when He was standing right in front of them all but smacking them over the head.
There are lots of churches and church people like this.
Not that long ago someone on Facebook jumped down my throat and danced all over my words because I dared question their understanding of (what they thought was) a key piece of theology. The topic doesn’t really matter, but I was attempting to show a long-held spiritual truth of the church in a slightly different light and you would have thought that I killed their dog.
My Facebook feed and private messages blew up with a steady stream of short comments that made it sound like THEY had all of the answers and THEY didn’t need a Guide, whereas I did.
I was wrong.
They were right.
… And if I didn’t like it, then I had no right sharing or teaching the Bible because clearly I wasn’t really a Christian (much less a pastor).
I wasn’t saying that they were wrong and I was right, but I was trying to show that maybe there was a different way to understand the topic than in the way we always have. Maybe we didn’t have it all figured out. Maybe we did need a fresh perspective. And maybe Jesus was the Perfect One to bring that perspective to us somewhere in the midst of our conversation.
Here’s my point:
You don’t follow what you think are long held Biblical and theological truths, you follow Jesus. And when we replace allegiance to Jesus with allegiance to what we believe are truths and principles and ideals about Jesus, that’s when things get messy and the church looks foolish and people start looking like morons on Facebook.
What I love so much about Jesus and the thing about Him that I find so compelling is that He didn’t step off of His throne in heaven to sit on a throne on earth and bring us a set of rules to follow and a set of deep theological principles to defend and dedicate our lives to.
He stepped off the throne of heaven, came to earth as a defenseless infant, and grew up to become a man who extended the reach of the church well, well beyond the Pharisees (who thought they had understanding and power and knowledge) to touch those who the Pharisees considered to be unknowledgeable, powerless, insignificant, and on the outside. He was constantly widening the gate to let more people in while the Pharisees were working to narrow that same gate and keep people out.
THIS, this is the Jesus we follow.
Although we might subscribe to a certain theology.
Although we might align ourselves with a certain camp or denomination or theological idea …
Thoughts on heaven and hell.
What happens in the afterlife.
How the world will end.
Thoughts on creation and evolution.
Predestination and Free Will.
… Although we might subscribe to a certain way of understanding those things, those things aren’t the things we follow.
We follow Jesus, we follow in HIS footsteps, and we seek to live our lives as He lived His life.
NOT on a throne.
NOT on a self-imposed galactic chair of knowing everything.
NOT on an arrogant attitude.
… Rather, as one who reaches out to those who others might consider lost and stretching our arms as wide as they will possibly go so that we can push the posts of the gate further and further apart to make room for more and more and more people.
Remember: we follow JESUS, not a set of rules and ideas. #MorningEncouragementClick To Tweet
You see, the sin of certainty comes upon us when we think we (like the Pharisees) have God all figured out and have neatly placed Him in our nice, little systematic boxes so much so that we refuse to listen to anyone else or think that someone else might have a better and different way of understanding God and His Gospel Message. It comes when we find ourselves more dedicated to ideals and theologies and ideas than we are to the One behind those ideas, Jesus.
The solution to this problem is to redirect our energies and our focus from the principles and ideals and onto the One behind them so that we (like Him) live our lives to welcome those who are on the outskirts, those who the world and the church might consider lost or hopeless or out of touch.
And the solution is (ALSO) to converse with others who have views that are different than ours. Just because someone understands the Gospel Message different than you doesn’t mean that he/she is wrong and you’re right or vice versa. Nor does it mean that you’re a better follower of Jesus than he is or that your theology is better than hers. It just means that you see things differently and that’s OK.
In October I took a class at Alliance Theological Seminary and my professor presented an idea that a student disagreed with. They went back and forth for a bit and then the student kind of gave up, assuming that they were on the same page, but just saying it differently.
“He’s the professor after all, so surely he understands this concept correctly … the same way that I do.”
I love my professor’s response:
“Before we move on, I just want to make it clear – I disagree with you. I don’t see it all in the way that you do. And you don’t see it at all in the way that I do. And you know what? That’s OK. I’m better for understanding your point of view and you are better for understanding mine. Next topic.”
Imagine that? It's OK if someone doesn't have the same view as you. #MorningEncouragementClick To Tweet
Again: The Sin of Certainty is when we focus more on the idea or theology than we do on the One behind the idea or theology. And the solution is to (1) redirect the energy we pour into defending our ideas and theologies and dump it (instead) into living the life that Jesus lived and (2) converse with people who see things different than we do and stop being offended by it.
Hope that helps somebody.