March 6, 2014
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from John 9:18-23.
Now the Jews did not believe that he had been blind and gained his sight until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight. They asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How does he now see?” His parents answered and said, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. We do not know how he sees now, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is of age; he can speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone acknowledged him as the Messiah, he would be expelled from the synagogue. For this reason his parents said, “He is of age; question him.”
An age-old tale of fear of expulsion from the tribe. One of the gravest punishments inflicted over the millennia has been exile from one’s community or country. To be bereft of family and friends, property and the accouterments of life, confidence that comes from familiarity and acceptance, is a bitter loss. Just the threat of being cut off is enough to keep most people in line. We see it today in the form of excommunication from the Church and dishonorable discharge from the military for nonconformance. Even this year the Douglas County Republican Party considered punishing members of the party who support or financially contribute to a Democratic candidate. This week the Kansas Republican Party is pushing for the passage of a bill that would prohibit changing party affiliation between June 1 and September 1 to prevent switches that could impact party primary elections. The message is always the same: if you don’t conform to norms and expectations, you’re not welcome here.
Jesus was not welcome for that very reason. He was expelled from the synagogues; he was run out of town in at least one incident. He was derided, chastised, and threatened. He never wavered, because he always knew the right thing to do. He knew what God desired for His chosen people. He knew that God loves each of his children, that His compassion overflows, that He wants each of them to be treated justly. Each and every life was far more important than adherence to man-made laws, more important than allegiance to a tribe or nation, more important than toeing the company line. Jesus knew that only love could conquer fear, but also that the odds were stacked in favor of fear.
We are a fearful people, at least I am. I have lived in fear all my life. Fear of not fitting in, fear of not being liked, fear of being rejected. I have lived up to the expectations of our culture, the expectations of others, because of those fears. Only recently have I finally come to a point of realizing in my heart that God loves me as I am and wants me to be the person He has created, to be used as His instrument. I’ve known that intellectually for many years, but my heart hadn’t accepted it until I began to read and reflect on the gospels. With that realization that God loves me has come the effect that God desires: fear is losing its grasp. As it does, I am being filled with joy, reveling in God’s love for me, opening myself to the many ways and the many people by which He evidences His love. That’s the world He wants for us, the kingdom of God, not the dominion of fear. That’s the contrast and the message that I see in these verses.