The sermon on Sunday was on John 7, where Jesus heals a man blind from birth. One misconception that Jesus corrects in the story is the idea that physical disability reflects a person’s guilt.
I feel like this is a message we could stand to be reminded of more nowadays. It seems to me that a common underpinning of conservative thought in the US is that people’s situations are a reflection of what they deserve and thus should not be addressed. Primarily, that if one is poor, it’s their own fault. I do think that sometimes being poor is a person’s own fault. But I also think that a lot about life outcomes is random, much more than we want to admit sometimes. I personally would apply Jesus’ message here, that how well people do financially is not necessarily a reflection of their own merit.
But I’ve been thinking more recently along the physical dimensions, mostly around cancer, for obvious reasons. I think and read about cancer a lot. And one thing I’ve noticed in people’s reactions is that many times, people blame cancer patients for their own fate. Not completely, sometimes not even consciously. But in the subtle things they say, it seems like they think, if they had only lived their lives a little differently, they would not have gotten cancer. Even patients themselves think that sometimes. And there are times when this idea is semi-deserved. Like when smokers get lung cancer or alcoholics get liver cancer. But most of the time, it’s not. Because in truth, we all do things that are unhealthy, so there’s always something one can point too. Too much sugar. Too many processed foods. Too many snacks. Not enough exercise. Unclean air. Whatever. You can look at any person in the world and find some “cause” for cancer in their behavior. So essentially, we all “deserve” cancer.
But the vast majority of the time, it’s not true. We might not like to think this, but a lot of the outcomes in our lives are out of our control, and cancer is one of them. Dr. Oz had a colon cancer scare recently and he was shocked by that because he had been lulled into the fallacy that he is fully in control of his fate, that his behavior can prevent cancer. That’s not true. We can reduce our chances. But it’s ultimately beyond our control. Some things in life are random. It’s good to remember that sometimes, so that we extend more grace.