John 9: 1-3; 6-7
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’
‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus…
… After saying this, he spat on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (this word means ‘Sent’). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
John 4: 7; 9-10; 16-26
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’…
…The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’
…He told her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back.’
‘I have no husband,’ she replied.
Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.’
‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.’
‘Woman,’ Jesus replied, ‘believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.’
The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah’ (called Christ) ‘is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.’
Then Jesus declared, ‘I, the one speaking to you – I am he.’
When the disciples encounter the man born blind they immediately want to engage in theological debate about the root cause of his affliction. Was it his own sin or his parents sin? They see his need as a problem to be solved rather than a condition to be healed.
Jesus, on the other hand, sees him as someone in need of the Father’s love and approaches him with touching compassion. He avoids the issue altogether not offering any explanation, other than to say what it isn’t! He tells the disciples that the man’s blindness has neither a generational nor a personal cause.
When confronted with the many needs around us in the world, we too face a similar choice. We can engage in theological and philosophical speculation about why there is so much suffering in the world, why God lets bad things happen to seemingly innocent victims, why some people get healed when we pray while others don’t. While there may be value in thinking through these issues at some point, it is not when there is someone with deep need standing in front of you. They require help, not theories. They need your best prayers and bold faith, not your theological insights.
We see something similar in John 4 when Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman at the well. Again, she wants to engage in a theological debate around where Jews and Samaritans worship God. However, Jesus sees beyond her surface questions to her real need. He gently confronts the deep issues in her heart and points to himself as the source of satisfaction that she has been looking for in so many other places.
Similarly, I have discovered that when non-believers challenge Christians with moral, philosophical and theological reasons why they don’t believe in God, often what they are really doing is masking or avoiding a different issue altogether. I sometimes ask them, “If I can answer all of your questions, will you become a Christian?” Nearly always, the answer is a firm “no”. However, what I have also discovered is, if these same people have a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit where they sense the tangible presence of God, often their barriers are removed and they are open to belief.
Instead of getting bogged down in theological arguments and philosophical speculation with your friends, work colleagues and family who are sceptical of your faith, why not pray for them when they are sick, invite God’s Spirit to touch them, ask God for a word of knowledge for them, ask the Holy Spirit for some insight which might unlock their heart and open them up to His love and compassion. As Leonard Ravenhill once said: “A man with an experience of God is never at the mercy of a man with an argument.”
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