Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Blind Spots

“Now as Jesus passed by,
He saw a man who was blind from birth.”
(John 9:1)

Today, most of us don’t have personal contacts or personal experiences with people who are blind. And so for some of us, the blind people we see are few and far between, usually only downtown in a bustling city. In our limited experiences, we usually see a blind person carrying a white cane. We watch them standing at an intersection, waiting for the light to change, listening to the people move across the street when the light changes. They carefully put their white cane in front of them, feeling the curb and where to step off the curb. We marvel at the ability and tenacity of blind people to get around.

In college, I had a friend who was blind. I would occasionally visit his dorm room for some late-afternoon discussions. During these times, we would frequently participate in one of his favorite past times – playing video games. About now, you’re probably thinking, “huh?!...video games?” These were my thoughts the first time he said, “Hey, you want to play Mortal Combat?” These thoughts quickly ceased after he demolished me five games straight. I never did figure out how he knew where I was on the screen. in front of his character, behind him, it really didn’t matter, my friend could tell by the sounds of the jumps, leaps and punches where I was at all times, and most of the time that was easy, since I was laying on the ground under his deathly blows.

It is with these stories that we approach the verse for today about the man born blind. Blindness was a very common disease in Jesus’ day, not like today having to go to downtown Chicago to experience blindness. In Biblical times, blindness was primarily caused by a water duct, located beneath the eyelids, drying up. The water duct under the eyelids became dry and the eyelids became puffy and swollen, as did the eyeballs themselves. This kind of blindness was spread by flies and was aggravated by the hot desert sun and desert sands. It was a highly contagious disease and the only way to contain it was to quarantine the people who had this dreaded blindness. It now has a technical scientific name, ophthalmic conjunctivitis. You see this kind of blindness nowadays in Third World countries, where there are swollen red eyelids and swollen eyeballs. The point is: blindness was very common in Biblical times. Blindness was found among your family and friends.

The Jewish people
of that era believed that when the Messiah came, the Messiah would heal blindness. The prophet Isaiah said that the Messiah would heal many diseases e.g. the deaf would hear, the lame would walk, the lepers would be cleansed, and the blind would see again. When Jesus came, he healed two blind people and these were signs that the Messiah prophecies in the Old Testament had come true. Jesus healed the man born blind and that story is in the Gospel of John. Jesus also healed blind Bartimaeus and that story is in the first three Gospels. Jesus healed these people of their blindness and these healings were a sign that the Messiah and Messianic age had finally arrived.

We recall the story of Luke, the author of the New Testament books: Luke and Acts. Luke was also a physician. The physician Luke uses many technical medical terms in his book Luke/Acts. You can actually visit the archeological ruins of the medical school in Pergammon, Turkey where it is believed Luke attended medical school.
Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him,
"Are we blind also?"
(John 9:40)

At the end of the story in John 9, the Pharisees questioned: “Are we blind?” And Jesus answered, “You better believe it. You are blind.” The Pharisees countered Jesus, “How do you say we are blind? We have the four pillars of faith. That is, we go to synagogue faithfully each week. We pray every day. We give our ten percent, our tithe. We know our Bibles. How can you say that we are blind even though we worship faithfully, pray, give our money, and know our Bibles? How dare you say that we are blind.” Jesus said, “I know, but you still are blind.

The Pharisees had their blind spots and we too have personal blind spots. I have my blind spots and so do you. We have our blind spots in our marriages, in our parenting, in our work habits, in our personalities, especially in our personalities.

We all have our blind spots, and we don’t quite realize our blind spots. You drive a car and look out your rear view mirrors and side mirrors but there are always blind spots and you can get hurt by those blind spots.

Our culture is also has blind spots and is blind about so many things: love, happiness, marriage, sex. It happens that our culture can become anesthetized to the world around us; anesthetized to the violence, the sexual innuendo, the millions of people suffering from AIDS around the world. We can become blind to these people and situations. This is called cultural blindness.

For example, it’s not uncommon for a weekly TV sitcom to illustrate something of the following nature. An attractive young virile couple gets on an elevator together, crowded with other people. As the elevator goes up, the man and woman start a flirtatious relationship with each other. They give each other the eye for twenty floors, and at the twentieth floor, they both get off. The woman meets her husband on the twentieth floor; the man meets his wife. The man and woman each walk off with their spouse but turn and send one more flirt. The implication? Cute, funny, a loving flirtatious fling. The subtle suggestion often portrayed by such shows is that love, that is really exciting, comes from a new relationship. What I am suggesting that our culture, our media, our movies, our values, are blind about what it means to love, to grasp what it means to love each other sacrificially, to grasp what it means to love when someone is worn out and tired. We, as a culture, can become anesthetized to the violence, the sexual innuendo, the enormous suffering of the world around us. We can become numb to all of this and not see what is happening. We can become blind and truly not see.
Individual people can become blind.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping trip. After a good meal and a bottle of wine, they lay down for the night and went to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend. "Watson, look up and tell me what you see." Watson replied, "I see millions and millions of stars." "What does that tell you?" Watson pondered for a minute.

"Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, I can see that God is all-powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Why, what does it tell you?" Holmes said, "Watson you idiot, someone has stolen our tent."

“O, happy the soul that saw its own faults.”
Mevlana Rumi

What do you think?
Question: As it relates to driving a car, what is a blind spot?

What do you think?

Question: Have you ever almost collided with another car as a result of failing to check your blind spots?

Question: What must one do to see into the blind spot areas?

Question: How is the analogy of automobile blind spots applicable to human action, interaction, and interpersonal relationships?

Individual, Spiritual & Cultural Blindness
John was born in 1740 in England. He grew up in the Anglican Church. This little boy went to church and learned his Bible verses. His mother died when he was only eleven years old, and so he traveled with his father who was a ship captain. His cargo was black slaves and he would have two to three hundred slaves down below in the ship hole, lying next to each other. You could imagine such an experience if you watched the film, AMISTAD. The father himself was not a slave trader but a boat owner who shipped the cargo of black slaves.
In a storm, little John Newton was washed overboard and was picked up on the open seas by a slave trader. Little John Newton no longer had a mother nor father. Little John was learning to become a slave trader like the man who rescued him. One day, John Newton was up in his cabin, reading the Bible and also an old devotional classic by the name of IMITATION OF CHRIST, by Thomas a Kempis. A miracle began to occur. The Holy Spirit got inside of him and worked a miracle and he was converted. He knew that personally he was wrong; he knew that his culture was wrong. He personally was in complicity with the evil of slave trading. His society was in complicity with the evils of slave trading, but he didn’t see it. He didn’t realize or comprehend the enormity of the evil nor his complicity with evil. But that day, a miracle occurred and Jesus the healer got inside of him and healed his spiritual blindness. And so John Newton composed a song which is now one of American’s favorite hymns: “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.” I once was blind but I finally see what I have been doing wrong. Jesus always comes to heal people who are blind. John had a huge personal blind spot in his tolerance for slave trading; and did his culture. And Jesus healed John Newton’s spiritual blindness

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance.”
Confucius6th century bc


J. Lee said...

“’We both seek and resist awareness about the reality of who we are.’ Why do you think this is?”

We know we aren’t what we seem and appear to be. We genuinely (most of the time), want to change and be changed. We know others see the truth about us, even under the veneer of what we would like them to see. Furthermore, that if they were asked, I think we very well know what they might say.. – we just don’t want to hear it. Truth hurts. Truth demands change. And, we secretly believe that we can change on our own, without them having to tell us where we need to change, and then one day we will appear all different. Somewhere deep inside, we act as if when that day happens, everyone will all of the sudden have erased from their memory who we really were. (Could it be sometimes these memories indeed do linger, if for nothing else than to allow God to demonstrate His awesome GRACE in the life of a broken human’s life?)

We know they see, but we like to live in the illusion that perhaps they don’t see ALL.

Honest Conversations require us to walk out onto the mat. They cause us to step onto the scales in full view of at least a few. We resist, yet deep inside our spirit’s resonate that though it hurts, it is the Way of Life and the Way to Truth – it is the way to Jesus Himself.

The Psalmist wrote, “Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts.” (Psalm 51:6).

No doubt, God knows the truth. God’s knowledge of what is truth is never the issue. God’s desire is that truth would ‘settle down and make its home deep within our inward parts.’ His desire is for us to know what it truth and for that truth to penetrate all falsehood within. Truth and Intimacy always penetrate superficiality and falsehood. God’s heart is that we become ardent lovers of truth – Truth after all is a Person – the Person of Jesus

Jenni said...

Those are really insightful thoughts, Jay.

I chose to reflect on this..."Question: What must one do to see into the blind spot areas?"
I'm learning slowly that I have lots of blind spots. To get out of the blindness sometimes we must turn. Just as in driving, you literally turn your head. Like it says in the word, "turn from your wicked ways." If were blind to our own sin, it's usually because we haven't chose to turn from it. But it's not always a wicked way that is making us blind, sometimes it's ignorance. Like I didn't understand that I couldn't see myself in a good light because the enemy planted lies in me as a child and I never knew to pray about them. When a pastor had me think about the lies I told myself day in and day out I realized how much the enemy had really planted in me and how much I was feeding into it. So, sometimes we need other people's feedback. I think that it's really vital to have honest conversations deep enough that other people feel comfortable telling you straight up why your doing something wrong or what's messed up that they can see.

On the same token we also need to be comfortable with ourselves enough to let others check our blind spots. I get revelation about blind spots when I'm daily conversation with the Lord. Especially during worship time. When you stop thinking about yourself and think on the Lord's awesome greatness then He reveals how to praise him effectively and sometimes that means loosening your flesh off. During many worship times the Lord has said to me, "Your praises are heard." Many times I am blind to the knowledge God hears me when I sing or pray, but He does and just by reflecting on His character my blindness can be lessened.