“You can’t play fast and loose with these New Testament commandments – remember what Paul warned the Corinthians? ‘For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.’ Those gluttons and drunkards paid for their disorderly worship with their health and their lives. Isn’t that much more of a warning to be certain that we obey every single commandment there is?” Someone warned me in a recent conversation. To drive the point home, he finished the thought: “If you continue to disregard these commandments, then God is well within his rights to make you weak or sick or let you fall asleep before your time.”
Thinking about that logic – that moral failure leads to physical maladies can also be viewed as physical maladies are caused by moral failures. That was the sort of thinking in the ancient world. If one is unhealthy, sin is to blame. Isn’t that more or less the theme of Job? (“What terrible sin did you do to bring this judgement upon you?” Job’s three friends asked him.) When Jesus met a blind man, the question “Who sinned that this man was born blind, his parents or him?” was raised. Think about that for a moment – it was a legitimate question for the day. If a child was born unable to see, hear, speak, walk normally, or act normally, then it was quite possible that before that child was even born he or she sinned or his or her parents might have sinned and their punishment resulted in the child’s condition. Jesus said that neither one sinned. Being born blind was not caused by sin.
My cousin was born with a hole in her heart. My other cousin’s son was born with a hole in his heart. We would recognize such things as birth defects. Such a concept didn’t exist back in Jesus’ day. And yet, there’s still a tendency for people to blame themselves when their baby is not born perfect. After all, we now know that Down’s Syndrome occurs when there is a full or partial copy of chromosome 21. No amount of sin can cause that and no amount of righteous behavior can fix it. It just happens. (And there are dozens, possibly hundreds of different birth defects that can happen and result in all sorts of unexpected outcomes.) You’ll notice that at most healing tent meetings that people come to be cured or diseases or healed of injuries – but there’s not many stories of conditions like Down’s Syndrome being reversed or left-handed people being converted into right-handed people through the power of prayer. I guess it just doesn’t work that way.
Which is why Storm’s words struck me as a powerful thought in X3, “There’s nothing to cure. Nothing’s wrong with you; or any of us, for that matter.” Turns out the actress, Halle Berry has a nephew with Down’s Syndrome. If my cousin’s heart hadn’t been repaired, she would have died as an infant. If Down’s Syndrome (or Autism) was cured, then thousands of people would lose that special outlook on life and live normally. Doctors have the tough task of choosing when to save lives and when to improve the quality of life. Who am I to tell a person that they’re born the wrong way? That they’re supposed to be one way and not the other? Who am I say that their sin or their parents sin caused whatever malady they are experiencing?
Weakness, sickness, and death is the natural end of life – being a morally perfect person does not mean that you will not know one or more these three things. So what is the point? I think we’re supposed to follow Jesus’ example, to comfort the mourning, to be there for the dying, to care for the ill, and to help those who are weak – to be compassionate people. Because one day will be our very last day and being preached at how if we had sinned a little less we might have lived a little longer is really unhelpful.
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 1:26-31