Scripture: John 9:18-41
Key verse: (25) “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”
Reflection: We are not blind…are we? That’s what the religious folks ask at the end of today’s reading. It begins with a man born blind whom Jesus heals. As he is engaged by the disciples and his neighbors and his parents and the religious authorities, different kinds of blindness emerge in the story. By the end, the religious leaders are asking, “We are not blind are we?”
I wonder, to what are we blind? With the disciples, are we blinded by the sins of others, unable to see their humanity? With the townspeople, are we blinded by the busyness of life, unable to see those struggling in our midst? With the religious leaders, are we blinded by our own religiosity? Do particular biblical passages keep us from seeing other human beings? With the man’s parents, does our fear of what we see lead us to choose blindness? To what are we blind?
Too often, I am blind to my own privilege. As a white man born in the United States, I am a person of tremendous privilege. Too often I fail to see that. This country offers more opportunity to people than any other country on the planet. I live in a nation where people considered to be in poverty would be upper middle class in 2/3 of the world’s countries. As an American citizen, I am privileged. I was born into a two parent family, and my parents stayed married for most of my childhood — that makes me privileged. I went to an excellent pre-school that prepared me for kindergarten. I attended public schools in Montgomery County, Maryland, one of the best school systems in the country. I have a Bachelor’s degree, only 28% of American adults can say that. I have two graduate degrees — only 11% of American adults have one. This education has given me access to wonderful career paths. Economically, I am privileged. Vocationally, I am privileged. As a man, I’ve had all kinds of privilege in my life. I’ve been afforded career opportunities my female colleagues never received. My pay has been higher than theirs, sometimes for similar jobs. Other times I had access to higher paying jobs that they do not have. As a white man, I’m even more privileged. My life is defined by relative safety and security. I’ve never been followed in a store while shopping. I’ve never been pulled over by police for having a tail-light out. I’ve never had to talk to my kids about how to behave if they’re pulled over by police. I can organize my life so that I’m only with people who look like me. I don’t have to think about my race as it relates to any aspect of my life. I am privileged in countless ways. By God’s grace, I see that.
Who sinned, my parents or me that I was born with this privilege? I did not choose the circumstances of my birth, nor did my parents. So who is to blame? Who is to blame for my blindness? In our reading, Jesus is not interested in that question when his disciples ask about the man born blind. That is not the question that matters when it comes to who is privileged and whose fault it is that such privilege exists. What matters is, “What do I do with my privilege?” Put another way, what do I do with my sight? What do I do with the access to power I have? What do I do with the influence I have because of my station in life? What will we do about the inequities that exist in our world? Or considering how Jesus describes the man born blind, what can we do that God’s works might be revealed in us? What can we do to live into the vision God has for a world of justice, mercy, righteousness and love? How can we use our privilege for good? More importantly, how can we use our privilege for God?
Prayer: Open our eyes, Lord, that we might see, that seeing, we might believe, that believing we might follow. Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].