Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sin And All "That"

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body (Rom 8:18-23, NKJV).

We were – each of us – born into a world conditioned and malformed by sin. Rain, which should fall from the heavens to water the earth, bringing forth life and giving growth, seed for sowing and bread for eating[1], falls instead to flood and destroy crops and villages and lives. The earth, founded upon the firm pillars of the creative word of God – “Let there be…” – trembles and quakes and levels massive skyscrapers and fragile shantytowns. Drought parches fertile land and devastates the hope of farmers. Fires rage, licking up forests and blackening the air with smoke. The earth itself bears witness to ancestral sin.

So, too, do we. Sin resides in our DNA. We, the image-bearers of God, are born corruptible, spiraling downward toward non-being from the moment of our first breaths.[2] We see it in the sickness of bodies and souls, in useless limbs and deaf ears and blind eyes. The outside of some us mirrors the inside of all of us.

1 Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind” (John 9:1-2, NKJV)?

It is a logical question in a culture that correlates personal sin to personal calamity, with cause and effect certainty. And, as scripture maintains, the true answer is yes, this man and his parents have sinned, and the cumulative sins of fathers and mothers and sons and daughters from ages past have produced a sin-infested world in which children are born blind. But the apostles are looking for a more direct causal relationship: some particular sin of the parents or child that resulted in this particular affliction. “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” It is all there in the little word "that", hina in the Greek of the New Testament: that – indicating cause and effect. Whose sin directly caused the man’s blindness?

While all illness is ultimately caused by sin, Jesus disabuses his disciples of the notion that this particular illness is caused by that particular sin; there simply is no one-to-one correlation of personal sin to personal infirmity.

3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him (John 9:3, NKJV). This man’s blindness is not the result of specific personal sin – either the man’s or his parents’ – but rather it is the opportunity for God’s power and glory to be manifest in and through the restoration of sight. It is all there again in the little word "that": that – this time indicating purpose and result. Though the world is ravaged by sin, though men and women are broken by iniquity, God’s purpose through it all is to manifest his power and glory in and through the restoration of all things: that the works of God should be revealed in him.

There is much darkness in the world, but God is working in the darkness that light may be manifest:

5 “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. 7 And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing (John 9:5-7, NKJV).

Sin and all “that.” Amen.

[1] See The Second Song of Isaiah, BCP 1979, p. 86.
[2] See On the Incarnation, St. Athanasius.

No comments: