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Cause and Effect?

Lent 2022

Read John 9:1-23

1As 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 while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”

18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

Many sports fans live by superstition when cheering on their team. They act as if an individual play or the final outcome is tied to something they did. They wear lucky jerseys, sit in a certain seat, eat specific foods, or engage in ritualistic behavior, hoping to influence the game.

We may think the same way about life. We talk about karma and say if we do good, good will come back to us. We warn against putting out bad energy because it always causes bad energy to come back. When bad things happen we want to figure out what we (or someone else) did to cause them. Worst of all, when we cannot determine a cause, we may accuse God of being cruel and unjust to allow such things.

This is typical reasoning for sinful people. It is our first gut reaction. It is why the disciples asked Jesus if a man’s blindness was caused by his sin or his parents’ sin. Superstition seems silly in a sports context. Yet, for some reason we think it makes sense when applied to our lives and even to spiritual matters.

Of course, this is not to say that our choices do not have consequences. Obviously many bad decisions directly correspond to consequences. If you plagiarize, you will most likely fail the assignment. If you commit a crime, you may be arrested and face many other consequences in life.

But it’s not always about us. When we think of cause and effect in spiritual matters, we may fail to take into account the existence of evil and the work of the devil.

There is someone in this world who is out to destroy the good that God has created. When something bad happens which we consider unjust, our inclination is to find a cause, forgetting a fallen world, our frail sinful flesh, and an active force of evil. We forget that Christ has overcome and victory is already certain, but that God patiently allows the world to continue, and evil still exists. This is one reason we earnestly pray for Christ’s return.

When we are troubled by the tragic results of evil in this world, remember that there is One who fights on our behalf, guides the course of the world, and intervenes with his mercy. We may not always understand God’s ways, but he has made his goodness and grace abundantly clear through his Son. We can be confident that our final outcome is not in question, and that, even in the midst of all that results from evil, God works out good and gracious things.

Prayer: Lord, this world often seems like a mess of tragedy and injustice. While I do not always understand your ways, help me to trust in your wisdom and mercy. When I endure difficulty or hardship, work out your good, that through such things my faith may be strengthened and I might be a blessing to others. Amen.

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