What is the relationship of suffering to sin? A Christian Perspective

What is the relationship of suffering to sin? A Christian Perspective
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Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes

Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes

The Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes is the Minister of Maple Grove United Church, and is a member of the Interfaith Councill of Halton. A chatty extrovert with a conversational preaching style, a multi-tasker who is a “multi-worrier” when it comes to caring about people’s problems, and a leader who treasures teaming with the lay people in her church, Morar says that at Maple Grove she has experienced “a deeper level of ministry than I thought possible.” Anyone who has personally received Morar’s deeply compassionate caring and wise counsel will testify to what an inspirational, healing and encouraging ministry it is.

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When the disciples encounter a man who couldn’t see, Jesus is asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” John 9:1-41 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”

Jesus rejects the traditional understanding of the man’s blindness as being someone’s fault. Rather, in this case he sees the blind man, and he is inspired to show the fullness of God’s glory in that moment.

Jesus spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” Then he went and washed and came back able to see.

The Pool of Siloam was the source of water which was carried from the pool to the temple as an offering during the Feast of the Tabernacles, a remembrance of Israel’s time in the wilderness.

This now sighted man tries to go home and can’t — The neighbours have no welcome for him, just questions: Who are you? Who is Jesus? Where is he? How were your eyes opened?

Then they brought him to the Pharisees, who were upset that Jesus broke the Sabbath (for Jews today it is perfectly acceptable to heal on the Sabbath). They said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”

Then his parents were interrogated. They were clueless so told them to ask their son. Back with the man who had been blind, they said to him, “We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

The world rejects what they see, so the man was cast out.

Jesus has been absent during these interrogations and only reappears at end.

“Do you believe in the Son of Humanity?” Jesus asked.

“And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.”

Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.”

He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshipped him.

The Story as Metaphor for Our Lives

Jesus heals, disappears, and returns.

Sometimes some Christians give the impression that once you become a Christian, life becomes something next to wonderful.

  • Difficult things become easy,
  • sadness is turned to joy,
  • failure is transformed into success,
  • and money will pour down on you like snow in an Oakville winter!

I’m here to say, it just ain’t so. This story reveals a pattern that is repeated in the life of every Christian and in the life of the church. At times, Jesus seems to be very close, but for great hunks of our lives, it seems we are on our own. Like the sighted man, we often feel that we are victims at an inquisition. And the more seriously we practice our faith, the more likely we are to find ourselves losing our ‘place’ in society, the identity we have through status or wealth or education.

Mark Zuckerberg was offered $75 million in 2005 for Facebook. By 2006, Yahoo offered him a billion dollars (only a US bilion, but even so… ). The CEO said, “I’d never met anyone who would walk away from a billion dollars. But he said, ‘it’s not about the price.’” Zuckerberg’s partner said this was the most stressful time in his life. And of this decision, she said, “We try to stick pretty close to what our goals are and what we believe … just simple things.” The New Yorker, Sept. 20, 2010

While they aren’t poor by any means, they give us hope that there are some folk who can’t be bought, who make their decisions based on what they believe.

The healed man lost his identity and his job as a blind beggar. The blind man might be forgiven for saying, ‘I could do without the blessing of this healing’.

Jesus teaches us that suffering and sin are not related. Sometimes bad things happen. But God’s love for us does not falter.

The man born blind now sees, and he knows there is nothing greater than the gift of sight, nothing greater than the gift of faith. With nothing known of his future, with no supports from the world, he still responds to Jesus, with “Lord, I believe!”

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