Jesus Did Not Debate

Yesterday’s assigned gospel lesson was from the ninth chapter of John. It is one of several very long readings that are assigned during Lent. Your church might have read the entire thing. Ours did not. It is unfortunate, but reading something that long to people usually reminds them of being read to at bedtime. So they fall asleep. If, like us, your church shortened the lesson or if, like most folks, you drifted off in the middle of the reading, you may not have heard how the story turned out.

The disciples want to debate who sinned, “this man or his parents, that he was born blind.” Jesus simply wants this man who was born blind to be well. The religious leaders were infuriated because the healing took place on the Sabbath. They cross-examine the man’s parents, whom the disciples suspected to be the sinners who caused the man’s blindness. In an act of craven self-preservation, the parents throw their son under the bus by saying that he is old enough to be questioned himself.

The religious leaders simply won’t let it go, so they find the man and demand that he condemn Jesus as a sinner because the healing took place on the Sabbath when even physicians are supposed to rest. To their demands, the man born blind makes a powerful theological statement: “Whether this man is a sinner or not I don’t know. The one thing I know is that I was blind, but now I see.”

He doesn’t debate them; he simply states his own truth in non-debatable terms. He is in no position to evaluate the soul of his healer, but the one thing about which he is an expert is that he couldn’t see before and now he can.

When I first became the pastor of a predominantly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender church, fundamentalist and evangelical preachers often wanted to debate. It made for good TV, and, frankly, I made an A in debate. So, because I had LOTS of practice with the topic, I usually could make my challenger look uninformed, if not foolish.

After a while, though, it just got old. The church I was pastoring decided that it was time to withdraw from the debate and simply let who we were, what we did, and how we lived speak our truth. We began giving away more than $1.3 million in services and resources to the poor. Rather than debate whether you could be lesbian or gay and Christian, we decided to simply out Christian them. In many cases that wasn’t hard …

by Michael Piazza
Center for Progressive Renewal


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