Friday, February 12, 2010

I've been reading the book, "Kingdom Without Borders: The Untold Story of Global Christianity," by Miriam Adeney. It's a wonderful book which talks about how the gospel is growing and spreading across the world. What I particularly like about it is the way in which it shows how each culture receives Christ in its own unique way, often maintaining many of their cultural practices, but coming to see them in a new way in light of Christ.

The book comes to a close with a Thai story by Kukrit Pramoj. It is a re-telling of the story of blind Bartimaeus. In this retelling, after receiving his sight, blind Bartimaeus is not overjoyed, but rather overwhelmed. He sees the sewage and flies, the children in rags, the people with skin diseases. He sees the weary, bitter, hardened faces of the street vendors. And he sees the face of the girl he loved in his blindness. Having been burned in a fire, she has an oozing sore where her face should be, and he cannot stand to look at her. Then he sees Jesus crucified. Confronted with the ugliness of the world, he begs Jesus to make him blind again.

Supposedly, the story is a Buddhist response to the gospel. In Buddhism, life is empty, meaningless, and ugly, and since we can't do much about it, we should just try to rise above it -- to a consciousness that allows us to be on top of all the ugliness and suffering. It must be nice -- to rise above all of life's suffering, but a Christian cannot respond that way. When we see the ugliness of the world, we have to think the opposite. We have to think, "This is not the way that God intended things to be. So how can I be part of making it different?"

I find this story fascinating because when Bartimaeus asks to have his sight removed, he is choosing ignorance. Bartimaeus begs for sight, but when he actually sees, he is overwhelmed by it. He wants to pretend it's not there or at least find a way of escaping the fact that it is.

I am convicted by this. How often would I like to choose ignorance! But having traveled to many places in the world where people live in poverty and even seeing its affects in my own community, I can't. It's too late! I've seen the suffering in the world, and I can't go back. I can, however, choose my response. I can bury my head in my hands and act like it doesn't exist or I can ask God what part He wants me to play in making it better.

Jesus came to give sight to the blind. Our God is not one who wants us to pretend that suffering doesn't exist. He is one who wants us to look right at it and be changed. That's why He is still opening eyes to this day. I love Him even more for that.

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