Blame or Compassion?

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is in chapter 9 of the book of John. It’s the story of when Jesus heals the blind man.

The disciples look at the blind man and automatically assume that he’s blind because of some sin, some poor choice – either his own or his parents’. So they straight up ask Jesus who should be to blame for this blindness.

You know, if we can figure out a way to blame someone for his suffering, then we don’t have to muster up compassion for him. Isn’t that our tendency? It’s what Job’s friends did back in the Old Testament — Hey, buddy, this whole situation stinks, but you probably brought it on yourself. So repent. 

And it’s what we tend to do, too. Right? 

That toddler migrant died? Well, his mom shouldn’t have tried to cross our border. It’s their own fault. 

That guy’s addicted to drugs? Well, he shouldn’t have taken the first hit. It’s his own fault. 

Their son got shot by a police officer? Well, he probably was breaking the law, so it was his own fault. 

She’s a poor mother relying on Medicaid and SNAP, and she’s about to lose her car because she’s behind on the payments. Well, she’s probably lazy or too dependent on the system, and if she worked harder or had a stronger mindset, she wouldn’t be so poor. It’s her own fault.

This is what the disciples did. They looked at the blind guy and wanted to know who to blame – the blind guy or his mom and dad. 

But Jesus looked at the blind guy with compassion and saw an opportunity for God to heal. Jesus answered their question, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”

Jesus saw a man created in the image of God, a man whom God loved. Jesus saw an opportunity for God’s love and holiness and power and healing to be revealed.

As Christians, we often talk about and pray for opportunities to be involved in God’s work. But when we see people suffering, our first inclination is often to look for someone to blame – usually starting with the person suffering. 

Instead, maybe we should look first for the opportunity for God to work and ask God to use us as part of that work.

Every day, I work with kids who have (allegedly) broken the law. It’s easy for me to look at them and their lives and jump straight to blame — well, this kid is just getting what he deserves OR He comes from a crappy home; his parents are horrible. In both situations, I lose sight of hope and I lack compassion.

Instead, I want to have the eyes and mind and heart of Jesus. I want to look at my students, at the people around me in my community, at the people suffering in the world and see them all as an opportunity for the work of God to be displayed. And then I want to be privileged enough to be part of God’s work!

I want to look at people and see the image of God, people beloved of God whom God wants to heal.

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