John 9:30 – The man answered, "Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes." (NRSV)
The age of being politically correct is a struggle for some people. Ways of speaking and behaving have changed and are changing. The second great commandment — "You shall love your neighbour as yourself" (Matthew 22:39 NRSV) — is the new normal (though for Jews and Christians it always was the norm). However, when we encounter the neighbour and hear an unknown language, or view clothing that is strange, or smell things being cooked that are unfamiliar, or do not see ourselves in the neighbour, we instantly fail to love the neighbour.
The Gospel of John strings one vignette after another, and each one invariably shocks readers. One of the vignettes is about a man born blind. A discussion ensues as to whether or not his blindness was due to some sin committed by his parents before he was born. Jesus dismisses the notion and restores the man's eyesight. The story is a simple one with a huge challenge — what about our own spiritual blindness? Do you see the neighbour who speaks Spanish? Do you look away from the man and his turban? Do you complain when the air carries the aroma of curry?
As I was driving to lead worship at a country church, I spotted a man walking along the Trans-Canada Highway. He was not walking facing the traffic but his colourful robes flowed freely in the prairie wind. Stopping the car, I greeted the man with the Namaste gesture. I discovered that he was walking across Canada to bring attention to the situation faced by immigrants. I gave the man a blessing and wished him a safe journey. The next day, I learned that soon after my brief meeting with him, someone tried to run him down with a truck, and when he reached his destination for that day's walk, he was refused accommodation at a motel.
Astonishing things can happen when we take literally the words of Jesus about loving our neighbour. It will change us. It will change relationships. It will be the realization of what Rabbi Marmur describes as the very essence of spiritual maturity, and that is the refusal to slam doors.* As we join the circle of prayer, let us each pray:
Prayer: Gracious God, I confess my blindness, my refusal to hear, and my reluctance to speak with my neighbours. Isolating myself from others is my sin. As I take one step away from my sin, and as I risk focusing my eyes on others, I am astonished by the changes in me. Amen.
* Harpur, Tom. Life after Death. Toronto, Ontario: McClelland & Stewart, 1991, page 215.
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