As he walked 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?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him… When he had said this, he 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” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. (from John 9:1-7)
Unlike many miracles of Jesus, this blind man did not ask for healing. He didn’t stretch out to Jesus like the woman with the issue of blood (Mark 5:25-34), he didn’t fall to the ground begging for mercy like the leper in Luke 5. Jesus didn’t even ask him if he wanted to get well like he did with the paralytic man at the pool (John 5:5-17). The guy was just minding his own business, became the subject of a theological discussion, got mud made with spit on his face and was told to wash it off. He washed the spit-mud off and received the healing.
Usually you have to ask, sometimes beg, to possibly receive some pretty fundamental things in life. Gifts like compassion and forgiveness are given after you’ve convinced someone that you’re deserving - that you’re truly sympathetic or sorry and that you’ve earned your way by suffering enough. But forgiving others is hard when the hurt still stings, and compassion is tough when I’ve got enough of my own problems.
This is why the freely offered forgiveness by the families of the shooting victims in Charleston is so remarkable. Forgiveness was not offered after the shooter asked for forgiveness, received legal justice or even after the families had time to reflect - it was given immediately to a man still intensely gripped by the darkness of fear and hatred and while their horror and grief was still new. It was a sacred act for a sinner. This man has not asked for forgiveness (as far as I know). He certainly doesn’t deserve it.
The blind man was not a sinner and merely lived in physical darkness. He received a physical mercy and they were both offered spiritual mercy. Neither the shooter in Charleston nor the blind man asked for what they were given, yet they were both given these gifts ‘so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’
It was the evil of racism, not God, which caused that man to kill nine people who had welcomed him in. But the forgiveness, the healing, is certainly an opportunity for the works of God to be displayed, as examples of generosity of spirit – something to clutch to my heart and remember when I need to be forgiving - at least we can rejoice with that.
Some of my thoughts on the massacre at the Emanuel AME Church last week.
We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day. (John 9:4a)
LaCanas Y. Tucker Manhattan Church of Christ New York, NY