“Deliver Us From Evil”

As he passed by, [Jesus] saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

John 9:1–2 ESV

That’s a deep question. The way the disciples saw it, either God punished his parents for something that had already happened, or He punished the man for something that hadn’t happened yet. If God only deals out consequences after the fact, then at least (they thought) we have a chance of avoiding them. But if God is going punish actions before we even do them, there’s nothing we can do, so why try?

It’s easy to see why the disciples wanted this question settled.

Now think about the blind man’s perspective. I’m sure the disciples’ way of thinking wasn’t unique. All his life the man probably heard variations on that story: Somebody sinned, and now your purpose in life is just to serve as a warning to others.

But I don’t think he bought it. Look at the way he responded when he was called in before the Pharisees:

The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

John 9:30–33 ESV

The confidence this man shows before some of the most powerful men in Judea is not the confidence of a man who believes he’s just a walking warning sign. Sitting by the side of the road he had come to the conclusion that God, somehow, would deliver him. He let his blindness make his faith strong. And his deliverance did come, through Jesus.

So back to the disciple’s question. Jesus, as he often does, rejects both options in favor of the right answer: God allowed this man to be blind so that He could show his power and mercy through the man.

At first this still seems unfair. Couldn’t God have displayed his power and mercy some other way?

Power, sure: there are lots of ways God could show power that don’t involve blindness. But to receive mercy, we need to be stuck in a bad situation that we can’t do anything about. if there wasn’t anything wrong, we wouldn’t need mercy.

Now the blind man’s case was an extreme one (those tend to make good examples), and God doesn’t always heal people physically. (He said no to Paul.) Sometimes God wants us to remain in our circumstances. But there is one thing that everyone struggles with, none of us can cure, and that God promises to always take away: our temptation to sin (1 Corinthians 10:13). The Holy Spirit will always help us do the right thing; it doesn’t cross his mind to do anything else.

This idea can change our whole way of thinking about ourselves. What if we viewed our weaknesses and temptations not as just bad things about us, but as ways for God to show his power and mercy? What if we believed God’s promise that He will always come through for us when we are tempted? Jesus put it right in his model prayer: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (And that’s all we have to say, by the way: “Deliver me from {fill in the blank}.” We don’t have to suggest ways for God to do it, because he’s already come up with a way.)

Have we given up in any area in our life, just assuming that we’re helpless and hopeless? Do we think we will always be angry, or undisciplined, or gluttonous (all weaknesses of mine)? Let’s get out of the mindset that we are just disappointments to God, or that he has punished us by making us a certain way. Can we go so far as to boast about our weaknesses like Paul? Because what we are really boasting about is God’s deliverance. “Why so downcast, O my soul? Put your hope in God.” He is faithful to deliver.