The Backlash of Breaking the Rules…

Based on John 9:1-41  

In today’s passage Jesus healed a blind man and in the new testament society even blindness was a sign of sin; reason enough for a person to need to be begging on the side of the road. But Jesus healed him.

This man, this beggar, was restored, made whole, could now get a job, could feel good about himself, could re-enter society because Jesus healed him. And Jesus tells the disciples that he healed him not just so that the blind man could see but so that they could see that the mission of Jesus was to demonstrate Gods love and compassion for all ~ even the beggars and sinners.

But there is something else going on in this passage. Jesus heals a blind man… and the religious leaders are furious. Jesus broke the rules… and they are angry. They don’t care that the blind man can see and they don’t care that the work of God’s compassion for all people is unfolding in front of their eyes. Jesus broke the rules and he needed to be stopped. So they start the hunt. They ask the people who are around them; “Who broke the rules”? They ask the parents of the blind man; “Who broke the rules”? And then they ask the blind man; “Who broke the rules”? And when the blind man won’t speak out against Jesus ~ the guy who just made him see for the first time in his life ~ they kick him out of the church.

To them God is defined by the structures that they have created ~ their rules are Gods rules. And Gods compassion and healing is secondary to the rules they have made.

Some of you may know about things that went on this week at World Vision. As one of the largest non-profit organizations in the world they provide support to children and communities in need; mostly through their sponsor-a-child program. They have offices in many countries and are supported by all kinds of different churches from the conservative Pentecostals to the progressive/liberal Anglicans. To work at World Vision you must agree to a statement of faith that includes the requirement to be very involved in a Christian church; to confess the Apostle’s Creed, and to be open to a work place that bases their day to day actions on the gospel of Christ.

According to reports World Vision in the U.S. has been grappling for about two years with its code of rules for its employees and the fact that some people in their organization are in same sex marriages that have been blessed by their church; whatever denomination that church is. And so World Vision recognized that that they are not a church… they are an organization supported by many different churches and thus will not enter into the theological argument of same sex blessings  and will, as an employer in the U.S., employ people who are married in the eyes of their own church.

And for some conservative churches and individuals who see homosexuals as sinners; World Vision broke their rules and the hunt began. On Wednesday thousands of people pulled their sponsorship dollars because World Vision – who in the name of Christ heals and supports and provides mercy to children – broke the rules as defined by the Christian Right.

The rules were broken so World Vision was out ~ and World Vision would suffer ~ well actually the children they serve would suffer.

This is not a homily to argue whether you feel homosexuality is right or wrong but it is a homily that invites you to recognize that the same thing that happened when Jesus healed the blind man played itself out in our world this week. In fact it was even worse because not only were the religious people ignoring whether the decision World Vision made showed an active Christian who happens to be gay that he or she is loved by God. But they also attempted to stop an organizations capacity to feed and heal and comfort children in the poorest countries as punishment ~ because World Vision broke the rules.

Their rules are THE rules and World Vision broke them so they, and the children they support, were out of the embrace of the church ~ just like that.

I have to say I was so shocked at how crazy it was… how could Christians ostracize people and children loved by God? How could they, within 24 hours decide to kick people out of the embrace of the church? Where is the Christian in that?

But they did and the backlash was catastrophic. I imagine that World Vision realized pretty quickly that their actions would result in HUGE negative impacts, especially to the children they support.

So within 48 hours World Vision retracted their decision and they said in a public statement that they would follow the evangelical rules and they would not allow married gay people to work for their company. (Which by the way they already do but now those people need to continue to hide in their own place of work.)

And then another backlash began. The web was alive again with a bunch of young evangelicals who felt hurt by their church and the way that their church denominations reacted to World Vision this week. Some said it was the last straw ~ they were leaving the church for good ~ they felt that the actions of their church was indirectly a decision to kick them out.

Reading some of the stories this week about Christians leaving the church at the hands of their brothers and sisters in Christ left me speechless, angry, and teary eyed.

But then I remember the end of today’s Gospel. Jesus does not stick with the religious leaders who are complaining about the rules being broken. No, when Jesus hears that they have kicked the formerly blind man out of the church he goes to him. He goes to him with compassion and allows the man to know Jesus more. To say; ‘yes you are worthy of Gods love and healing’. To say; ‘yes you know me and I know you’.

We as a larger body of Christian people continue to make some pretty huge mistakes and there were all kinds of mistakes played out this week.

I pray that Jesus, who went to the blind man after he was kicked out of the church, has gone to the individuals who left the church this week or who were hurt by the roller coaster ride of World Vision.  I hope that Jesus finds them and is able to break through the hurt.

And might we all remember that this is God’s Church, it is Gods rules and it is God who judges.

God will love whenever God wants and whomever God wants ~ sadly for some people God loves a whole lot of people!

Might we humbly serve a God who continually seeks to show that love must overpower everything else….even the rules.

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