By Clay Hallmark
President, Tennessee Baptist Convention
Listen to these words from John 9:1-5 from the Christian Standard Bible: As he (Jesus) was passing by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” Jesus answered. “This came about so that God’s works might be displayed in him. 4 We must do the works of him who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
These are some convicting words for our lives, our churches, and our denomination. Let me give you a few insights that might help us today.
First, when I look at this I cannot help but see an unusual perspective. When you read the first verse, you cannot help but notice that the perspective of Jesus and the perspective of Jesus’ followers were completely different.
The way that Jesus looked at people was totally different than the way His followers looked at people. John was quick to point out that it was Jesus who saw the man who was blind from birth. Jesus did not overlook him or ignore him, but was sensitive to his needs.
The blind man had no ability at this point to see Jesus until Jesus Himself did something about his condition. The blind man could not cure himself or bring healing to his condition on his own. Only Jesus could fix his situation.
I cannot help but wonder how many people are all around us every day that we never see? How about that waiter or waitress at the restaurant? What about that person at the drive-thru window? What about the man that delivered those packages today? Do we even see the person behind the cash register? What about the teller at our bank? Do we ever really see these people? Do we see them with the same loving, caring and ministering heart with which Jesus sees them?
What we do as Christians, as churches and as a denomination is that we give a lot of “lip service” to how much we love and care for people. But do we really? I don’t think so. I think if we really saw people the way Jesus saw people, then more and more of these people would be going to heaven and less and less would be going to hell. At the end of the day, our perspective needs to change so that how we see people is the way Jesus sees them.
Second, when I read this passage what I do see is an underlying problem. This underlying problem is revealed in verse 2 when we see the perspectives and priorities of the disciples of Jesus. While Jesus saw this man, his great physical need, and his spiritual need as a matter of personal priority, the disciples had a different priority. When they saw this man, they wanted to enter into a theological debate. They asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Later, we will read that the Pharisees and religious leaders also wanted to look at this man through the lens of another theological debate. I am afraid this is one of the major problems facing our denomination as yet another annual meeting is upon us.
Rather than see people and their real, authentic, personal needs or seeing them through the eyes of Jesus, we want to spend all of our time having another theological debate.
The topic of the debate changes from year to year and even from month to month in the Southern Baptist Convention, but the reality is that many people had rather spend time on social media and podcasts hashing out the newest theological debate.
Meanwhile, we are surround by those born blind all around us, even within the shadows of the steeples of our churches.
Here is what I know to be a fact: The blind man did not care about their theological debate. He just wanted to see. In order to see, both the blind men and women of the 1st century and the 21st century need Jesus if they are to see.
Jesus’ frustration with His disciples then as recorded in John 9 is the same frustration He has with all of us today. Jesus said to them these words we need to hear and take to heart when He said, “4 We must do the works of him who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work.”
Lost, blind and hurting people all around us could care less about our theological debates or stances. They do not care about our creeds or credentials. They do not care about what version of the Bible you use because it does not matter the version if you are not sharing it with them. They care about our ministry, not our meetings. What they need from us is not more denominational strategies, but real devotion to the Savior.
It is time to work while it is still day because darkness is setting in! Vance Havner said, “We have a story to tell to the nations, but we must not forget that we also have a story to tell to our neighbors.” Let’s ignite the flames of evangelism Tennessee Baptists, and get back to sharing our gospel story with our neighbors.
Let me hear from you and how I can pray for you. Send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. B&R — Hallmark is pastor of First Baptist Church, Lexington.