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Truth in Tension: Truth and Assumptions

I remember well a sign my seventh-grade English teacher had posted on the wall in his classroom. In very bold letters, it said, “Never assume. When you do, you make an ass out of u and me.”

My fellow Christians, what we assume to be true greatly affects how we treat others. I pray this article will cause all of us to reconsider our assumptions so we can be set free to love and serve others with divine passion.

John 9 is an extraordinary story of people who made false assumptions about a man who had been born blind. Those assumptions clearly influenced how they treated him and his parents. Here is the first part of the chapter:

‘As he (Jesus) went 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?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So, the man went and washed and came home seeing.

His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was.

Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”

But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”

“How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.

He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So, I went and washed, and then I could see.”

We know several things about the man who was healed — he was born blind, his parents were still living, he was a beggar. We learn later in the chapter he was an adult because he was “old enough to speak for himself.”

The false assumption is revealed in the question offered by the disciples. Surely, it could not be the will of God for a baby to be born blind. God would never do such a thing. The blindness had to be attributable to sin — either his parent’s sin or possibly his own.

The answer Jesus gives is astounding. Frankly, it should shake all of us to our core, “But this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” It wasn’t sin! Quite to the contrary, it was God’s divine plan!

The blind man would have been treated differently if his community had assumed the blindness had divine purpose and that someday they would witness first-hand an astonishing miracle. But because they falsely assumed his condition was based in sin, they didn’t treat him well at all. He had to beg to survive.

And imagine the weight of guilt carried by his parents. The community falsely assumed that their sin was to blame for their baby’s blindness. The parents probably blamed themselves too. How awful it must have been for precious parents to live under such false assumptions.

Had the community assumed differently, they would have treated the blind man completely differently. Had they assumed divine purpose, and had they lived in the anticipation of a profound miracle, they would have held the blind man in high esteem. He wouldn’t have needed to beg. Instead, people would have been standing in line to bless him in any way possible. They would have wanted to be a part of God’s divine and miraculous plan.

His parents would have received the blessing and support of the community. They would have been highly regarded by other parents. They would have held their heads high with pride, knowing God had chosen them to give birth to a blind miracle baby.

But they didn’t know, and their false assumptions about the truth resulted in a precious child and his guilt-ridden parents living in condemnation. It is a heart-wrenching story.

Sadly, it is a story that repeats itself again and again in today’s world. We Christians falsely assume that difficult situations are based in sin and its consequences. With the convenience of that false assumption tucked in our back pocket, we feel justified in ignoring the needs of others. We simply assume they are getting what their sins deserve. I fear that God is not pleased with our false assumptions. After all, what would my life look like if I got what my sins deserve? I shudder to think of it.

Why do we so naturally assume that something difficult is based in sin? Job’s friends did the same. Just read the book of Job, and you can see how false assumptions influenced Job’s wife and his friends. They assumed his suffering was the result of sin, and they treated him badly — and all the while, God was revealing His divine power through Job. What a mess — and all of it is based in false assumptions about the truth.

Are we willing to see people and their situations differently? Seriously, how would we treat people differently if we assumed their suffering was an opportunity for God’s miraculous power to be displayed rather than a consequence of sin? I will leave it with you to ponder the answer to that question as you meditate on Isaiah 55:8-9,

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”