Below is the second of three excerpts from chapter eleven of my forthcoming book Prone To Love. The chapter is entitled Sin. You can pre-order on Amazon now. It releases February 18th and I can hardly wait! Who Sinned?
A Series of Coffee Shop Adventures. That would have been a good title for this book. By now some of you might think my life revolves around coffee and that’s not far from the truth…
I was sitting at a Starbucks, happily drinking magic bean juice with a pastor friend. We were talking about mercy and grace and what Jesus’s death and resurrection meant for our new nature when he pointedly asked me a question: “Are you saying you can go a day without sinning?” Hidden behind the healing sounds of pulled espresso shots and milk steaming, Mumford & Sons was setting the mood.
Love; it will not betray you,
Dismay or enslave you, it will set you free,
Be more like the man you were meant to be.
Without hesitation I answered his question, “I haven’t thought about it, but I sure hope so.”
Oh, man! The look on his face…you would have thought I’d told him I was the love child of Hitler and Bin Laden.
Before his shock could turn to anger, I said, “I think your question is flawed—the premise is wrong. Your question suggests that the point of my life is to not sin. But I believe the point of my life is to know His love and become transformed. I am not saying I can’t sin, I am not even saying I haven’t sinned today, I’m just saying that it’s the wrong focus.”
Then I told him the same Jesus story I had shared months earlier at another coffee shop with some college students, one who was particularity concerned about smoking.
Jesus was walking down the street with His disciples when they came across a blind fella. His disciples asked,
“Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?”
Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do… (John 9:1-3 MSG).
It wasn’t that Jesus didn’t acknowledge sin; He just knew that the answer to the issue of sin didn’t lie in the study of who sinned, but in a revelation of Dad.
The New International Version reads, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”
I’m convinced that Jesus sees every question raised by sin and death as an opportunity for love to be revealed. Every tragedy and every bondage is an opportunity for the Father’s love to trump need.
Please understand me: Jesus was not saying that sin isn’t a problem or that it doesn’t lead to death. Nor was He suggesting that the blind fella had lived a perfect life or that his parents hadn’t fallen short. He was simply saying that the focus is no longer on who had sinned, but instead on “Who loves you? That’s right—God.”
Everyone knows sin is a problem. The handful of people with Jesus and the millions who have read this story since know that the blind fella and his parents weren’t without sin. More than likely, they had even sinned that day. But Jesus wasn’t focused on the problem. He was the living, walking, talking measureless solution.
Think about it like this. Adam and Eve were both born perfect. As perfect, I imagine they had perfect 20/20 vision. The point is that we were created to see, it’s in our original design. Blindness is the result of the fall. It didn’t exist before sin and death entered the world.
For the blind fella, the result of sin in the world was devastating. In the day and culture he lived, blindness was directly connected to sin. In the day and culture he lived, blindness was a shame that stranded you as a hopeless beggar. Blindness was a life-and-death problem.
The question of sin dominated the reality and conversation of Jesus’s day. It was the focus, it was the problem, and it was the separation from our Father’s always-good transforming love.
Unfortunately, even after Jesus died and rose, even after Jesus declared, “It is finished,” even after the veil was torn, even after we have been seated with Him in heavenly places to live from the measureless, even after we have been invited to change the focus, most believers still want to know who sinned so they can pin the tail on the appropriate donkey.
For some reason, we like that pinning stuff...